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Education

Whose Job is it?

Whose Job is it?

Photo: Sometimes Others Misinterpret Our Focus In Conversation

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How do you know when someone has not only heard what you have to say but actually understood your message?  Is it your job, the sender of the message, to make sure the receiver of the message has understood your message in the way you intended?  The sender encodes the message in language, verbal and non verbal that is appropriate for the situation. The receiver decodes the message using their own personal frame of reference. So the question is Are we sending and receiving messages using the same frame of reference? Probably not.

It isn’t absolutely necessary that all our conversations are understood in the exact way we intended. Many times close approximations are good enough. We often have enough history or experience with those around us that we, on both sides, can fill in the blanks and make sense out of our interactions.  With trusting personal relationships we can live with the ambiguity of miscommunications without assuming bad intentions or worse. But outside of family and friends we need to be more careful.

Communication requires self awareness. The sender of the message needs to recognize his or her personal feelings and frame of reference and how that influences what is said and how it is said. Understanding your own communication style and preferences is an important first step and something that has a direct impact on effective communication.  Recognizing the purpose of the interaction, sharing routine information, introducing a change in procedure, giving bad news, or announcing the successful results of a project, all require a particular communication strategy. How you proceed in each situation will impact how the listener understands and responds to the message.

The listener or receiver of the message hears the message through her or his own experiences. The particulars of the situation, the location of the interaction, individual physical and emotional state, and knowledge of the situation influence how the listener responds to the message. Their relationship to the speaker, for example the difference in status or power, can help or hinder understanding. Their interest in the topic influences how much attention they give to the interaction. Those of us with children certainly understand how quickly children hear and respond to some requests and don’t hear or remember others.

There is no one way to communicate or share your message. Take a closer look at the situation and be clear on what you hope to accomplish with the interaction and plan accordingly.