Monday, October 29, 2012


An Apocryphal Teaching Story

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.

The main reason for this communication mismatch in perception is due to our differing mental maps. 

Yes, we all have mental maps (due to our life experiences) owing to which each of views communication in a different manner, in accordance with our mental maps. 

You must remember this when you talk to your children, especially grown up children, for they to have formed their own mental map which may not be in sync with yours. 

As an illustrative example, here is a Mulla Nasrudin Story which shows how misinterpretation of communication can happen with hilarious results:

An Apocryphal Mulla Nasrudin Teaching Story

Nasrudin wanted to protect his daughter from the dangers of life. 

When the time had come to make her worldly-wise and she had grown into a true flower of beauty, he took his daughter aside and told her about the baseness and malice of the world.

“My dear daughter,” he said, “remember what I tell you. All men want only one thing. Yes, remember that men are very cunning. They set traps wherever and whenever they can. You don’t realize how you sink deeper and deeper into the swamp of their desires. I want to tell you how to avoid the way of unhappiness.”

“Traps…Unhappiness…?” his innocent daughter asked. 

“Yes. Listen carefully. 
This is how they go about it.
First the man swoons about your best features, he praises you, he flatters you and he admires you.
Then he invites you to go out with him.
Then the two of you pass his house and he mentions that he just wants to fetch his coat.
He asks you if you would like to come in the house with him.
Upstairs he invites you to have a seat and he offers you some tea.
Then he puts on some romantic music and the two of you listen to music.
And then, when the time is right, he suddenly throws himself on you.
In this way he will violate you
And once you are violated, we, your parents, are disgraced. We have to suffer shame and ignominy and the reputation of entire our family is destroyed. 
And once your reputation is ruined, it is destroyed forever...”

The daughter took these words of her father to heart.

A few days later she came up to her father and smiled proudly.

“Father,” she said, “you are really great. How did you know how everything happens? I met a man today and it was exactly like you described it. 
First he admired my beauty.
Then he asked me out. 
As if by coincidence we passed his house.
There the poor fellow noticed he had forgotten his coat.
And, so that I wouldn’t be alone, he invited me to come on into his apartment. 
As good manners require, he offered me tea and brightened the day with beautiful music.
At the point, I remembered your advice and I knew exactly what would happen. 
But you see, I am worthy to be your daughter. 
When I felt the moment coming, I threw myself on him and violated him.
Yes, I violated him and destroyed his reputation and, thereby, I ruined the reputation of his parents and his entire family. 
Yes, I taught that man a lesson and destroyed his reputation forever.”

Hilarious, isn’t it - what all can happen if there is a communication mismatch.

You say something, you mean something else, and the listener interprets something totally different from what you intended to convey.

As I said, it all depends on “mental maps”. 

So please ensure that your mental maps are in sync and you are on the same wavelength with the person you are communicating with, before you start talking.

Have a Happy Monday and a Great Week ahead (and remember this story before you start speaking to someone, in office or at home)

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.

Did you like reading this story? 
I am sure you will like all the 27 stories in my recently published book of short stories COCKTAIL
To order your COCKTAIL please click any of the links below:
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Foodie Book:  Appetite for a Stroll

About Vikram Karve

A creative person with a zest for life, Vikram Karve is a retired Naval Officer turned full time writer and blogger. 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 large 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 and magazines for many years, before the advent of blogging. Vikram 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 and blogging. 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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© vikram karve., all rights reserved.


Manav Lalotra said...

Good subject you chose to write about Vikram. However, just a genuine feedback , (with all due respect) - it would have been much better if you would have phrased some other example instead of the VIOLATION one!! I know that it is a part of our society and we must not shy away from it. However, as I see it, this post is addressed to parents and no parent would like to have such thoughts to hover in mind all time long, though it might lie somewhere at the back of their minds.
A good post though - communication is complete only when the other person understands the real meaning and less is left to perceptive interpretation. I has tried to write about the parenting skills as well - a bit different than your post though. Have a read:

Unknown said...

Dear Vikram Ji,

Beautiful post...these are the must read things by every parents..which will help them maintain a great parent - child relation!

barbed wire

Vikram Waman Karve said...

@ Manav - Thanks for your feedback