Recently I came across a series of videos on YouTube illustrating how people miscommunicated. They are a fun and game way of showing how communication can go wrong. In this instance, it is about how non-verbal communication can go wrong.
In the video, a message, or rather, an action was passed from one person to the next down the line. Observe how a simple action can be misconstrued, and how by the time it reaches the end of the line, it became a completely different story.
Amazing isn’t it? How a seemingly simple message can end up so miscommunicated.
Many attempts to communicate are nullified by saying too much. - Robert Greenleaf
Or, sometimes, saying too little, as was shown in the video. Granted that this is just fun and game segment, and the participants might feel shy and self-conscious, the message in the video is still very clear. It is easy to miscommunicate.
Many years ago, I attended a course on communication skills. During one class, the instructor suggested an exercise to demonstrate how messages are, and can be easily miscommunicated.
The same method as in the video was used, but instead of an action, it was one simple sentence passed from one person to the next. The instructor whispered a message to a student in one corner of the class. The student was to pass/whisper the message to the person behind him. In this way, we were supposed to pass the message round the class, until it reach the student at the other corner of the room. The test was to see how well we communicate.
A simple experiment – a simple message of one sentence. Unfortunately, I can’t remember what the sentence was, or what it ended up to be by the time it reached the last student. I only remember that the message at the end was nowhere near the message that the first student was told.
How could a simple thing such as passing a sentence on, go so wrong? You see, as the sentence was whispered from one person to another, words were added, or subtracted, or changed by the receiver, who instead of passing on what he/she heard, he passed on what he thought the communicator was trying to say, or what he thought the message was supposed to be. In this way, by the time the sentence reached the last person in the class, it was a different sentence altogether.
And why would anyone take it upon themselves to change the message instead of passing on exactly what he heard? I guess it is human nature to add our two cents, to think that we know better.
We all learned the lesson very well that day. We learned it is easy to miscommunicate.
So, always bear in this in mind. Do not believe everything you heard, unless you heard it personally from the original source, and even then, your interpretation of the message could be totally wrong. There are still plenty of room for errors. And, when you are conveying a message, never add to, or subtract from what you heard or saw.
This is why communication is so important, and why the lack of communication, as well as miscommunication are the root cause of almost all our problems today.
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