EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION SKILL
ARE YOU IN SYNC WITH THE PERSON YOU ARE TALKING TO
Misinterpretation of Messages in Inter Personal Communication
MESSAGES IN INTER PERSONAL COMMUNICATION
Suppose you are talking to someone, say your colleague or your spouse or your kid or your friend or even a stranger.
Communication is a two way process.
Assume that there are two of you talking to each other engaging in interpersonal communication.
Now, when you speak to someone you will be watching her and observing her body language and similarly she in turn will be doing the same - so interpersonal communication will comprise not only verbal speech but non-verbal cues as well.
Let us assume that you say something to the person in front of you and she says something back to you in reply. There will be six messages present in this person-to-person communication process:
1. What you MEAN to say
2. What you ACTUALLY say
3. What the other person HEARS
4. What the other person THINKS is heard
5. What the other person SAYS
6. What you THINK the other person says
Interpretation of Communication (deriving messages from a communication) depends on many factors ranging from intellectual to emotional to cognitive - all these factors form your MENTAL FILTER.
How you interpret a communication depends on your mental filters at that point of time which, apart from your intellectual, emotional and cognitive aspects, is also governed by various factors like your mood, quality and type of relationship with the other person, the environment in which the communication is taking place.
And it is similar for the other person talking to you.
In order to reduce communication mismatch, it is essential that your mental filter is in sync with the person talking to you and vice versa. Otherwise there will be ambiguities in the messages exchanged and this may have undesirable ramifications, and, at times, may even lead to discord and conflict.
AN EXAMPLE OF HOW MENTAL FILTERS DISTORT MESSAGES IN A COMMUNICATION DUE TO SELECTIVE INTERPRETATION
Let me try to explain this with an illustrative example:
Imagine that a husband and wife are driving right across Pune from Wakad to Koregaon Park one evening for a party.
Their car crawls at snail’s pace in the heavy traffic on the busy crowded roads of Pune, a city where traffic is the worst nightmare, especially in peak hours like evenings.
The car is waiting at a red traffic signal.
Suddenly the traffic signal turns green and the wife says to her husband, “The signal has become green...!”
Now, in his mind’s eye, the husband can interpret this simple communication from his wife in a number of ways.
The way in which he interprets this simple statement made by his wife depends on his mental filter at that point of time.
The husband's response to his wife's simple statement will depend on how he interprets his wife's communication which in turn will depend on his mental filter at the point of time.
Here are a few examples of how the husband will interpret his wife's simple communication (“The signal has become green...!”) and how he may reply back to his wife:
1. One husband may think his wife means to say, “Can’t you see...? The traffic light has turned green...!”
So he may retort angrily to his wife, “Of course I can see ... I am not blind...!”
(Remember, the wife merely said “The signal has become green...!” - The wife never stated that the husband is blind.)
2. Another husband may think his wife is hurrying him up and interpret the meaning of what his wife's communcation as, “Come on, you slow-poke, hurry up; we are already late,”
On interpreting his wife's communication in this fashion, the husband may snap back at his wife, “Don’t unnecessarily hustle me, let me drive properly.”
(Remember, the wife merely said “The signal has become green...!” - The wife never stated that her husband is a slow-poke and drives too slowly)
3. A third “hen-pecked” husband may assume that his wife has started off her nagging again.
So this husband will say irritably to his wife, “Stop your nagging and backseat driving – why don’t you drive the car yourself instead of passing comments?”
(Remember, the wife merely said “The signal has become green...!” - The wife just wanted to draw her the attention of her husband to the traffic signal and had no intention of nagging him)
Now, in each of these cases, on hearing her husband’s remarks, the wife may either choose to remain silent or she may “appropriately” respond to the husband’s comments and give him a “fitting” reply.
If she decides to retort, the husband may reply back, and then the conversation will go on and on and the result will be that more “heat” and less “light” is generated.
What if a husband just ignores the wife’s remarks, remains silent, and says nothing?
Well, the wife may interpret her husband’s silence in a number of ways depending on her mental filter, and she will respond accordingly and say something to her husband again. Or she too may remain silent resulting in breakdown of verbal communication, though non-verbal communication may continue (remember, SILENCE is a very effective way of conveying non-verbal messages, and sometimes silence can be quite powerful too - like they say “a deafening silence”...!)
Whichever way the wife chooses to give her husband a “fitting” reply, this may provoke the husband further and the “communication” cycle will continue.
HARMONY OF MENTAL FILTERS FOR EFFECTIVE INTER-PERSONAL COMMUNICATION
HOW TO BE IN SYNC WITH THE PERSON YOU ARE COMMUNICATING WITH
Interpretation of communication, drawing inferences – it all depends on your mental filters, doesn’t it?
Your mental filters “colour” your cognition and influence (bias or prejudice) your interpretation of the message in a communication.
The sine qua non for Effective Communication is Harmony of Mental Filters.
And if there is a Mismatch in Mental Filters the result is Misinterpretation of Messages due to interpreting “implied meanings” where there were none.
Like we highlighted in the example of communication between husband and wife, repeated misinterpretation of communication can snowball and spiral into an unhealthy communication cycle and can damage inter-personal relationships both at work and at home.
For example, in a marriage, repeated misinterpretation of mutual communication between husband and wife, due to mismatch in mental filters, may cause disharmony in the relationship and lead to marital discord, which in turn may snowball into disastrous consequences, and which can in extremis even lead to breakdown of the marriage.
So before you communicate with someone, at work and at home, make sure that your mental filters are in sync with each other (mutually synchronized).
Otherwise when you talk to someone you will mean something but the other person will interpret something else, and this may create serious misunderstandings.
Remember, there are six messages present in a person-to-person communication process. So when you are talking to someone, both of you must make sure that you are in perfect sync with each so that there is no ambiguity or confusion and you achieve seamless effective inter-personal communication.
Copyright © Vikram Karve 2012
Vikram Karve has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
© vikram karve., all rights reserved.
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About Vikram Karve
A creative person with a zest for life, Vikram Karve is a retired Naval Officer turned full time writer. Educated at IIT Delhi, IIT (BHU) Varanasi, The Lawrence School Lovedale and Bishops School Pune, Vikram has published two books: COCKTAIL a collection of fiction short stories about relationships (2011) and APPETITE FOR A STROLL a book of Foodie Adventures (2008) and is currently working on his novel and a book of vignettes and short fiction. An avid blogger, he has written a number of fiction short stories, creative non-fiction articles on a variety of topics including food, travel, philosophy, academics, technology, management, health, pet parenting, teaching stories and self help in magazines and published a large number of professional research papers in journals and edited in-house journals for many years, before the advent of blogging. Vikram Karve has taught at a University as a Professor for 15 years and now teaches as a visiting faculty and devotes most of his time to creative writing. Vikram Karve lives in Pune India with his family and muse - his pet dog Sherry with whom he takes long walks thinking creative thoughts.
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