I can find « lessons from the jungle » just about anywhere. I recently saw a powerful message about effective communications on the Discovery Channel, when I watched a show about a rescue program that helps chimpanzees in Africa.

The project is for baby chimps orphaned by poachers and older animals abandoned or otherwise mistreated by people. Comprised of a very large fenced compound at the center of several hectares of primary jungle, the project cares for few dozen animals.

They are raised to maturity and healed from various traumas. Because of their familiarity with human beings, those chimps can't be released back into the wild.

They would normally have learned about the environment from their parents and extended family unit, but are now learning new relationships with both the jungle and with people.

The adult chimpanzees have a free run of the jungle during daylight hours and return to the compound at night. One particular group is taught to climb trees... as the baby chimps raised by people are naturally uncomfortable with heights.

The project is “ruled” by an alpha male. A very wise old chimp, he pretty much lets humans organize things and only intervenes when he thinks it necessary.

One day the whole compound was in an uproar. A new addition was causing quite a stir. A new chimp baby was unexpectedly and surprising different...
it was a half-albino. Every monkey in the place wanted to see, grab, hug, squeeze, smell, touch, taste or whatever else the strange, white, newcomer, NOW.

Every monkey-rule collapsed, decorum hit a frenetic din and things were headed for chaos. Looking for order, the old alpha male raised his voice and barked a command. But he was totally ignored.

He must have had a serious reason for intervening because he then offered a fierce, insistent roar, accompanied by aggressive charges and gestures, and with appropriate, chest-beating raves. But his intent was lost in the frenzy.

He then commanded « attention ». He walked over the new baby pulling others aside, picked it up, raised it high above his head and threw it against the chain-link fence.

Well you could have heard a pin drop.

He had "stopped time" and everyone was very attentive. He roared in the silence. I don't know what he said but I do know everyone listened. The baby was shaken but not stirred, and chimp curiosity became much more subdued and orderly. He ambled over and picked the baby up. He held it for a few minutes, examining it closely and then he set it down and walked away.

I then realized that monkey knew the 4 pillars of an effective communication: 1. "Intent" when you see it as an edifice. 2. "Attention" if it seen as a challenge. 3. "Empathy" when it’s a tool. And, 4. “Validation” if you see it as power
  1. Seeing "Intent" as an edifice means giving your communication physical dimensions - i.e. a structure, a purpose, a tone and such. A sports arena, for example, suggests different behavior than a cathedral. Does the reason for your communication require a face-to-face, a meeting with appropriate fanfare or will an email do the trick?
  2. Holding anyone's "attention" is a major challenge these days. Solicited from every direction, people have less time than ever before. They also have more information to digest and their "attention span" is often severely taxed. Knowing how to grab and hold a person's attention, how to optimize an opportunity when you get them and how to synthesize a message to focus on essential information is a key to a successful communication.
  3. Empathy - that is, seeking to understand the other before trying to be understood - is a tool when you use it to monitor receptivity to the exchange. Are you moving too fast? Is your audience following?
  4. Validation means making sure others understand what you mean to communicate. Asking how another person is receiving your message will give you the power to adjust in an instant. In this way, molehills don’t become mountains.

Consider these 4 pillars to an effective communication whenever you have to relate your desires to someone. If you can positively influence them and profit from the result, you'll more easily rule your corner of the jungle.