by Jenifer Tull-Gauger
Clear communication can help any organization, family or society. It can also help the individual. My own communication ability improved when I became a karate student. I learned the dojo practice of saying, “Yes, Sensei” or “Yes, Mr. So-and-So,” instead of “Yeah,” “Yep,” “Uh-huh,” or just nodding.
Pre-dojo, I had not thought of the difference between saying a direct and positive “yes” and giving the typical, ambiguous, non-negative response. Saying “Yes” became a habit in karate and it became ingrained in my actions.
So when a waitress asks if I want honey-butter with my cornbread, I say “Yes.” When the banker asks if I’d like direct deposit, I say “Yes.” Then there is no question about what I want, and I get it.
Saying “Yes” requires actively listening to and understanding the question, because you will be undeniably responsible for your agreement. It also means you have to be on your toes, concentrating and thinking about whether the answer really is “yes” (and if it’s not, you must say “no”). No ambiguous grunting or mumbling allowed.
When you look a person in the face and say “Yes” or “No,” you are showing respect and affirming their value as a human being. You are also communicating clearly as is expected of a student of traditional martial arts. Clear communication is crucial to working together with others.