The Illusion of Communication

"The problem with communication ... is the illusion that it has been accomplished."
-George Bernard Shaw

More often than not, many assume that the act of communication is solely defined by the exchange of thoughts in the form of words. As I discovered over the many years of trying to wrap my brain around the concept, I realized that this common perspective couldn't be further from the truth.

I think of the 90's as the decade when the concept of "communication" was loudly introduced in North America’s pop culture as the panacea of all problems between individuals and among collectivities. Many adopted “just say it” as their personal motto because communication promised to restore peace and order almost magically. Sure, couples were thrilled at the idea of reconnecting through "communication", parents were relieved by the promises of communicating with their teen, employees and employers were encouraged by new and innovative communication measures introduced in their organization, but sadly, confusion remained.

In the face of this communication chaos, I had to ask myself why the act of communicating was not helping, to the point of even leading to more conflict and misunderstanding. I heard people say “I’m communicating, so what am I doing wrong?” This question motivated me to engage in an in-depth investigation aimed at solving the enigma. Years of observation and analysis later, I came to the conclusion that the problem is not so much what you say but how you say it and who you are saying it to.

One cannot engineer a good message without a full understanding of its audience’s psyche whether it is your companion, your kid, your boss, your employee or a whole community. The how is about understanding the complexity of communication’s processes, and the who brings the focus on understanding the individual or the community’s labyrinthine mental programming.

The recipe for a successful communication exchange isn’t simple. But the first step is to recognize that the act of communicating is multidimensional and that getting the message across requires much more than expressing oneself with naïve spontaneity. It’s a science for which many have devoted years of study and practice. This means there are communication experts and doctors, and they would certainly tell you that their motto isn’t “just say it” but rather “say it right”. In other words, know your audience and keep it simple.

Well, that's a start.


Anonymous said...

Great. Very true :)

Tetrapiloctomia said...

"One cannot engineer a good message without a full understanding of its audience’s psyche whether it is your companion, your kid, your boss, your employee or a whole community."

I think a "good understanding" is never possible. We are dynamic entities in continuous change. Even more, we are a colaje of unique experiences so our logical apparatus is also unique.This means that we are subjects to be revealed just to ourselves, in the monastery of our thoughts. I think the best we can do is "pretend" our message reaches the receiver one shape or another and try to adjust it a bit after we get a reaction. Communication is a useful fiction but no more than that. I would recommend you a books called The Philosophy of As-If written by Hans Vaihinger. Keep up the good work :)

jimmyx9 said...

One of the greatest understatements is "a picture is worth a thousand words"!
Closer to the truth "a picture is worth a few million words "
The 'image' in the minds eye , the feel of a concept , is so complex it is the naive communicator that believes any even close resemblance of the thought being attempted at any reasonable quality of accuracy with out a well expressed and carefully crafted 'painting' of the conveyance , an understanding is most likely to be distorted .
An artist uses millions of brush strokes to relate the picture in his minds eye. A million words (strokes) ,open to even more interpretation, is sure to fall short.