Professor Brian Cox and why good communication requires perspective

Brian CoxProfessor Brian Cox described this week how perceptions of our planet have shifted over time, in his new BBC series Human Universe.

The physicist explained that for most of history the Earth was thought to be motionless and positioned at the centre of the universe.

As the sun, moon and stars seem to pass over us we naturally believe that our planet must be motionless and a fixed point. Aristotle and most ancient Greek philosophers came to the same conclusion.

That was until Galileo in the early 1600s produced telescopic observations to support the view that the sun was the centre of the solar system and that the earth in fact revolved around it.

Fast forward to 1968 and the NASA Apollo mission to the moon. On Christmas Eve the crew, including astronaut Bill Anders, entered lunar orbit. As they emerged from behind the lunar landscape for a third time, Anders noticed the earth appear to rise, in the same way the sun appears to rise for us each morning.

EarthriseHe took a photograph (included here) which became known as Earthrise, one of the iconic images of our time. On this occasion it was the Earth that appeared to rise while the moon seemed to stay still.

This concept can be applied to communications.

When our communication doesn’t produce the results we want, it’s tempting to think that it failed because of some external factor which was beyond our control, or that someone or something blocked our efforts.

But when we take time out to experience our very own Earth Rise moment, we can look at the problem from a different communication perspective and begin to solve it. It starts with an appreciation of our personal role and the impact we have on others.

The communication decisions we make and our subsequent actions, in terms of how we interact with others, ultimately determine whether we get to see our personal sunrise.

Or whether through an inflexibility to see things from other perspectives and failing to adapt accordingly, we are forever doomed to dwell in communications semi-darkness.

Image credit: NASA

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