Man’s attempt to be on the same page in terms of word meaning resulted to the creation of dictionaries. Yet another display of human ingenuity right there.
But the creation of meaning goes way beyond the individual meaning of words, phrases, and images.
Oftentimes, I’d wish the transfer of information and meaning would follow this model of communication:
But truth be told, most (if not all) the time, this isn’t the case. When I’d say, for example, that “I need a marker”, the receivers of that message would have different mental images of a “marker.”
In the last couple of days, I realized that there is more to communication than whisking words to form grammatically correct sentences that form a coherent paragraph.
If you haven’t noticed just yet, most of our problems traces its roots from misunderstanding and miscommunication.
Dr. Bill Strom writes, “… [it is] tempting to think that communication is the answer to the world’s international conflicts. Or our marital problems. Or church squabbles. Communication has often been considered a cure-all for what ails us.”
So, how exactly do we make sure people get what we mean?
I would like to assume that it is every person’s desire to be fully understood. And by that I mean we want people to get the same mental image we have when we formulate ideas and plans. But we don’t always get what we want.
Our brains process information differently. Add that to the fact that there are a lot of other factors that affect the creation of meaning inside our head.
It helps when we recognize that we are co-creators of meaning. Most often than not, every information that enters our brain goes through a lot of other filters before it becomes meaningful to us. Whether we admit it or not, our interpretation of information would be affected by our values, our background, our biases. And the list can go on.
If this is true, then we have to:
(1) be clear about our goal when we communicate: Are you communicating to plainly express our opinion, to convey important information, or to initiate action?
(2) always look for the best way to communicate our ideas: What words should you use to help your audience understand you better? What is the best communication medium to use (tv, radio, print, digital media)?
(3) anticipate confusion without overthinking – Think of possible discussion points. Don’t be surprised and/or get irritated if and when people ask questions. Answering these help create the meaning we want our audience to have in their head. On the other hand, try not to overthink. Overthinking would bring you to the other extreme which is failing to communicate because you are too paranoid about the possible repercussions.
So, the next time you talk to someone or write a blog or create an infographic, or craft another Facebook or Twitter post, ask yourself: “What do you mean?”