Thursday, April 20, 2006

Cool Illustration of Miscommunication

Cartoons as a soap box have been around and online for years. Scott "Jerry" Lawrence has this really cool cartoon about life inside the computer. While reading this series I came accross one that has much to say on many different levels. Please look at the cartoon and come back. Different Goals is a cartoon about how easy it is to miscommunicate what we are thrying to achieve to others. Indy is sure that he has communicated clearly and precisely to (I think it is) Jerry. But alas the most beautiful thing in the world is different for all of us. There is not just one thing that is the most beautiful thing in the world. So it often is in business and in our personal lives. We do not take the time to eschew obfuscation. That is, we do not take it upon ourselves to think and speak clearly. It is time well spent to determine exactly what you need to say and why. However, many time it is much easier to lob ambiguity and trust that it has been well recieved. Some steps for better communication are:
1. Be clear yourself what you want the other person to understand.
There is a great difference between:
""Would you like to go to lunch sometime" and "I am hungry, would you like to go get some lunch at Tastee Freeze, now?". It seems that people who want my time will often throw it at me and expect me to catch their meaning. I am not sure how many times I have missed lunch with people at the office and so forth because they will offer lunch or coffee and not be specific that they are thinking of going right now. Tell it like it is and be direct. It is much easier to get what you want that way.
2. Paraphrase what you believe you have heard the other to have said.
"Peanut Butter?"
"Do you really want me to dip my banana popsicle in peanut butter?"
"No, I was wondering if you wanted a peanut butter sandwich with honey?"
3. Describe completely that which you are trying to convey:
The message conveyed by the sentence "I don't want a popsicle." is much different than "I cannot eat that melted green and blue popsicle, do you have a frozen banana one?". Yet often my wife will give me the first message. Then go to the freezer and get exactly what she had told me she did not want. This is ambiguity, not to mention that it sends the message that what I get for her is not good enough.
4. Let your no's mean no and your yesses mean yes. One risk in communication is when dealing with people who will not tell you what they want waht they really really want. This leads to many people getting the wrong message and can lead to places people really do not want to be.
5. Eat more popsicles, please.


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