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Do we really know what we say

Updated on September 23, 2013

What do we say

How often do we talk without really knowing what we say? Is it often or is it just sometimes or even never. If we ask ourselves we will probably say sometimes. If we ask others they will say often. Although often in the eyes of others is more often than not related to how often we talk with the other person and how irritating the other thinks not knowing what you are talking about is. There are however a few important factors to remember when we are talking. First talking or communicating is always done in a relationship, so there are at least two persons needed for communication. Second to be able to communicate while knowing what you are talking about, you need to know your own level of knowledge of the subject and what the other persons level of knowledge is. Thirdly your own personality and that of your listener is of influence on how you interpret the idea of do you know what you are saying. And fourthly the interpretations of knowing what you say depends on how often you talk to each other.

But lets start with that communication model we all know and love to forget.

A communication model

Simple or complex

The most simple communication model is: Broadcaster, medium, Reciever.

However this model is to simple to use to understand how communication can go wrong. So the model has been “improved” by adding noise. With noise you can explain everything that causes communication to become garbled and miscommunicated.

Noise can be real noise like in a bar, that makes it difficult to understand what the broadcaster is saying. But noise can also be static on a telephone line or a phone whose speaker is not working correctly. But noise can also be talking in a strange language and not knowing which words are used to express certain ideas. Noise can even be a difference in knowledge level. So jargon is a form of noise, as it makes it difficult for the receiver to understand what you are saying. But even a difference between what you want to say and what the receiver thinks you want to say is noise.

So noise can be:

  • Noise in the communication environment
  • A bad working telephone speaker
  • Jargon
  • Differences in subject knowledge
  • Different interpretation of what is said
  • Cultural differences
  • A unknown language
  • Personal differences about what words mean
  • Distance between speaker and listener
  • Illness
  • Memory changing meaning of words
  • How we feel at the moment
    • But noise still does not explain why at some moments we think we are completely clear and still are misunderstood.
    • This lens
    • about defective ways of listening gives some insight into how it can go wrong. But even those five poor listening skills can not explain all the things that can go wrong. Not even
    • these twelfth roadblocks to communication
    • explain why communication goes wrong. Because communication always has two parties who can influence the way the communication goes, as Daniel Goleman showed in his book about
    • Emotional Intelligence
    • .
    • So what is happening in communication that we often see it go wrong.

What goes wrong in communication

A lot can go wrong

The first thing that often goes wrong in communication is that we think communication is about us. But the following communication model makes clear this is not true. Because most communication has the following messages:

  • The content
  • The question
  • The ego
  • The relation
  • The other
    • We all recognize
    • the content
    • of communication. This simple sentence has content.
    • The question
    • in communication we often also understand. If someone tells us that Squidoo is down for maintenance between 0 and 2 PST, we understand that the question is to not use Squidoo during that time.
    • The ego
    • is often less well understood, although sometimes it is absolutely clear that the message is about the ego. For example when someone walks in crying and starts to talk about how their friend dumped them, we all understand the person is not talking about their friend, but about why they are crying.
    • The relation
    • message is often connected to the question or the ego. Because the question in a message implies we have a relation and so does ego. So when someone walks in crying and talking about their lost love, we understand that the broadcaster is asking us to honor their relation with us.
    • The other
    • is a difficult one for us, as it seems to fall under the relation part of a message. But in reality the other is about what the broadcaster thinks of us. We often get this message in the examples people use to explain themselves. So the other part of communication often shows us what assumptions the broadcaster holds of the receiver. If the broadcaster thinks the receiver does not fully understand what the broadcaster is doing, his or her behavior will be to use simple examples. If the broadcaster assumes the receiver is of the same level or knowledge, he or she will use jargon or complex language.

A lot of influences - Noise and messages

On all these elements of communication noise can be of influence. So you get the large table above with fields in which something or anything can go wrong.

And yet, the strange thing is, that although we have all this room to make mistakes, we often get it right. For a part this is due to the fact that we communicate redundantly, we say more then we need to say. Not only do we use words, but also body language and tone of voice. But also we have this fast repository of knowledge about language and how it is used and a brain that is trained at using and interpreting communication. So most of the time broadcaster and receiver only have enough with half a word to get the message across and understood. That is why we are so bewildered and confused when communication goes wrong, because it is a deviation of what we expect when it comes to communicating with others.

So what do we need to learn

if anything

When it comes to communication the first thing we need to learn is that we have to let go of our assumption that it will always go right. This means we need to be grateful that communication goes as expected probably 98% of the time. But we need to learn to cope with the remaining 2% that goes wrong.

The best way to cope with the 2% that goes wrong is start asking questions when you find out that it went wrong. Assume that it can be any of the twelfth noises that influence broadcasting and receiving and maybe even a combination of several noises. Ask questions accordingly and start listening two what the other answers, because sometimes the answer is just a way of hiding the true reason. Because beyond all these influences on communication the biggest reason people do not communicate openly is their fear to lose their livelihood and safety. So if the receiver does not trust the willingness of the broadcaster to listen, getting to the truth about what went wrong in the communication will be like pulling wisdom teeth, an operation with a lot of pain afterwards even with anesthesia.

The third thing to learn about communication is that there are always two parties, broadcaster and receiver, and neither party is victim or perpetrator and both parties are responsible for a correct communication proces and effect. So if you do not understand open your mouth and says so. If you think the other does not understand you, open your mouth and ask what is misunderstood. But also create a situation in which both parties can express their observations, be open to answer question about misunderstanding, be open to be questioned about what you may have misunderstood.

And last but not least, be a great example of how communication can be a party for both broadcaster and receiver.

So do we know what we say

Yes we do

Most of the time we know what we say. But there are moments it can go wrong for what ever reason. But when both broadcaster and receiver are open to communicate on every level and about every level, there is nothing to keep us from understanding each other and become happy communicating with each other.

And remember communication is as well your responsibility as the reader of your communication.

Communicate with us - Let's hear what you have to say

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