Intelligent Communication

Have you been the victim of modern communication? Our culture can move information at the speed of light, but do we always receive the message correctly or do we spin it the way we want it to be? We must weigh the words we are reading or hearing. We...


Have you been the victim of modern communication? Our culture can move information at the speed of light, but do we always receive the message correctly or do we spin it the way we want it to be? We must weigh the words we are reading or hearing. We must not jump to conclusions, but understand...


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Have you been the victim of modern communication? Our culture can move information at the speed of light, but do we always receive the message correctly or do we spin it the way we want it to be? We must weigh the words we are reading or hearing. We must not jump to conclusions, but understand what those writing or speaking are really trying to say. It has been my sad experience that jumping to conclusions can cause a host of problems for all parties to the communication equation.

Words once uttered or written cannot be recovered. Their force cannot be blunted. One of the major assumptions underlying modern communication (print, voice, Internet and the like) is that the people on the receiving end of the information will always correctly receive and comprehend the actual meaning of the message being sent. This is one of the great fallacies in our world. People perceive the same words in different ways. If you do not believe me, just use the thesaurus on your word processor to conduct a short test. Pick a word and then check the many other words that can be thought to have the same or at least a similar meaning.

Let me offer an example. I have chosen the word "understand." The first series of words revolves around the word "appreciate" as another word for understanding:

Appreciate, know, recognize, comprehend, realize, be aware of, value, identify with, empathize

There is another series of words that circle around the word "comprehend" as another version or means of understanding something. The words here are:

Comprehend, be familiar with, know, appreciate

Yet another series of words equates with understanding in terms of "grasping what it being said, written or stated." These are:

Grasp, take in, figure out, work out, get it, get the picture

Do you see where I am heading? Which version of the concept of understanding did you have in mind when you began the communication process?

One person's words may not translate well based on another person's experience, education and vocabulary. Before you fly off the handle and begin ranting at people, it is critical to engage in a studied dialogue. Through the asking of reasonable, intelligent questions, it may be possible to avoid controversies and arrive at an understanding of what is being said. One of the easiest questions to ask is, "Did you really mean to say _ when you said _?" Another interrogative that could be useful goes something like this: "Correct me if I'm wrong, but did you mean to say _? Did I understand that message correctly?" You will need to be calm, cool and collected when you use these sorts of questions.

The wise leader must become a master of the reasonable interaction. Unfortunately, far too many people read or hear something and draw an instantaneous conclusion. They become angry and launch into a rant-and-rave session with the person whose thoughts or words they might have misconstrued.

Each of us listens with a mind that has grown to adulthood with biases, prejudices and meaning databases. Just because you, as the leader, know what you are saying, that's no guarantee that the people receiving your message will take it in the manner you meant it. If you tell 20 people the same thing at the same time, do you actually think that everyone will perceive what you stated in the manner you meant it? If you think this way, you will find out that you may only be correct about half of the time. It is possible that the percentage of people who understand what you have said could be higher if the concept is simple. However, as the topic gains in complexity, the percentage of people will drop.

There is another problem the wise leader must keep in mind. Not everyone who reads, sees or hears your message will react in a reasonable manner. There will be those who read or hear your words and quickly jump to a conclusion that you had never even considered. Further, when people get fired up about something, you can be sure that the first thing to leave the discussion will be the concept of reason.

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