General discussion


Concrete vs. Abstract Mind

By boxfiddler Moderator ·
I work for a small, not-for-profit that is engaged in helping to heal war trauma in my community. We're funded by a variety of religious and private organizations and foundations, as well as a variety of local, state, federal, and international governmental bodies.

The therapeutic work that we do requires strong abstract minds in order to be successful. We have them in abundance.

The accountability our various funders expect of us requires strong concrete minds in order to provide the level of detailed reporting they seek. There are but two of us.

We have serious internal communication issues on both sides.

I'm curious as to how you folks deal with this kind of communications issue in your organization. And looking for anything we can implement to help ourselves improve our internal communications.

Thanks much.

clarify - internal

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There is no abstract

by santeewelding In reply to Concrete vs. Abstract Min ...

Without the concrete, from which the abstract is abstracted.

Nor, is there any concrete without the abstract to tell us so.

We are stuck with both. At the same time. All the time.

The minute one goes one way without the other, watch out.

In your pro forma, Concrete versus Abstract, one goes one way without the other. That way lies grief.


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by AnsuGisalas In reply to There is no abstract

Does the concrete care if the abstract tells it or not? If a tree falls in the wood, and noone tells it how woods are made up of trees, will it make a difference to the poor sod it hits? Just wondering...

Abstraction is a useful tool, but without a steady connection with reality it's a nosedive waiting to happen, usually involving a nose-to-concrete reconnection.

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This, I know.

by boxfiddler Moderator In reply to There is no abstract

I'm trying to get a Dali from a Rembrandt and a Picasso...

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Communication toolkits.

by jfuller05 In reply to Concrete vs. Abstract Min ...

These have helped me to communicate effectively to various types of communicators, what did I learn? To keep it simple (also, to actually <i>know</i> what I'm communicating). Of course, as I am human, I fail sometimes. :)

1. Use simple terms
When in conversation, avoid using specialist language if it is not needed. Use language that the person you are speaking with understands. Don't try to impress; seek to express. Communication that is simple and clear is persuasive. More often than not, we techies like to use our acronyms. As cool as that is, our clients/users don't understand, so I try not to use acronyms with the people I'm helping.

2. Use stories and illustrations
This kind of communication works better for most people and takes the complex and puts it into practical terms.

3. Own what you are talking about
To communicate simply, it helps to understand deeply. If you have trouble communicating your ideas in simple terms, it could be a sign that you are just repeating things in the way that you have heard others say it. Spend time making the subject your own by crafting your own illustrations and ways of communicating the subject -- and keep it as simple as possible.

Some useful resources: (the Internal Communication Toolkit)

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Thank you, jfuller05.

by boxfiddler Moderator In reply to Communication toolkits.

Looks like I'm going cruising. :)

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I can try.

by AnsuGisalas In reply to Concrete vs. Abstract Min ...

I am translator and bachelor of General Linguistics, so, while I'm not always able to get my point across, I can evaluate problems to some extent.
So, if you have concrete examples of your problems I can maybe suggest approaches to diminish problems.
What do you mean by abstract minds? Scientists? Psychologists? Something else?
By concrete minds I assume you mean technical, application-focused?

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I'm using terms borrowed from Psychology.

by boxfiddler Moderator In reply to I can try.

It's that, or use absolutist/relativist, which is somewhat 'true', but I think not as apt.

We two concretes deal in data, and application of theory that neither of us is fully qualified to apply. Me, Accounting, my cohort, Social/Psychological theory, in relation the requirements noted above.

Our abstracts, on the other hand, deal with the various clinical issues that beset our clients, which requires extensive theoretical knowledge and training in Psychology.

Getting a straight answer from the abstracts is (seemingly) impossible. On the other hand, our blunt nature is off-putting. And certain 'absolutes' are simply not understood and/or dealt with.

I'd like to see us come to some agreed upon middle-ground in our inter-office and daily work-oriented communications. We flounder, at the moment, wasting valuable time (as both time and dollars) hashing and re-hashing issues that we think are settled.

There is strong personal conflict, also, that appears to be a result of mis-understanding, and mis-communication.

I'd like to be a part of bringing us together more effectively.

Not an IT issue, per se. But I can see that there are probably parallels between IT and 'the rest of the company'.

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Since you are accounting for psychology,

by seanferd In reply to I'm using terms borrowed ...

am I to work off the basis that your translation problem lies in who was treated for what, and are they improving - that sort of thing?

If these are trained psychological professionals, they should have no problem making use of the DSM current version for describing the clients' ilnesses/issues. They have to report on these thing along with prognosis assessments, treatment paths, and assessments of progress in the private sector all the time, especially for insurance companies.

If this is the issue, you just need to tell your psych types to get with the program.

Otherwise, I suppose I'd need to understand further wherein the disconnect lies.

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by boxfiddler Moderator In reply to Since you are accounting ...

See what I mean? I'm having a difficult time expressing what I see...

Within their clinical purview there are few to no problems.

The disconnect lies, I think, in communications between the abstracts and the concretes. Also, a degree of inflexibility on the part of we concretes and the purpose we serve in the organization.

Maybe I should have gone with 'absolutists/relativists'. Certain 'absolute' practicalities may be the problem. That, and never knowing when an answer is a yes or a no.


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It sounds like a basic discourse mismatch...

by AnsuGisalas In reply to No.

I get that all the time with my wife, she's hardcore conditioned for sociology, whereas I'm similarly conditioned for linguistics. It can get ugly, but it's always refreshing.

Your abstracts may be using a discourse they feel to be less violent, and that often means not saying straight up what you want. One basic problem is this: a clear request is avoided, because it's hard to turn down without losing face, but the veiled request (seen by concretes to be a nonvital request because of it's nondemanding wording) can in fact be a vital request, one that can't be turned down without generating bad feelings.

Does this sound familiar?

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