Andy Capaloff
December 1, 2013

Good Communication Is Not Just About The Words You Use

The chances are that you consider yourself a master communicator but have nevertheless had issues where your instructions to someone have been misconstrued and they have felt the same about you.  Considering we will be communicating in the same nominal language – some dialect of English where the words might reasonably be expected to be understood by all – where do these miscommunications come from?

The amusing allegorical illustration to the right (courtesy of – click on the image to see it in it’s full size), is one of several variations of a poster that was very popular in the IT community in the 70s and 80s.  The tree_swing_70sparticipants will change and the situations most certainly will, but the lesson is clear: it isn’t language barriers that lead to miscommunication as much as the different perspectives that come from our part in any process.

So how can we overcome this?  The single most important thing is to recognise that there is a potential issue in the first place.  When you give instructions to any sort of designer, they will almost inevitably read something differently to how you had intended it.  And such miscommunication is far from limited to those who must translate your thoughts into graphics or websites.

I’m going to re-tell a little joke as further illustration of the different ways people view the same thing and how each view is actually right:  We all know that the optimist sees the glass as half full and the pessimist sees it as half empty.  But when an engineer sees the same glass, (s)he sees that the glass is actually twice as big as it needed to be and we wasted materials when making it.  I’d venture to suggest that other schools of thought exist regarding this glass, which has become so symbolic of differing perceptions.

And what does all of this have to do with the price of tea in China, or the challenges you may be facing in your business?  Well this particular dilemma has everything to do with the disruption and chaos we see today.

Never has so much information been disseminated by so many.   And never has the overlap been so great.  The same information is being delivered visually, in lists, in white papers and in blog posts short and long, and each format reaches a different segment.

The same information is re-purposed for more audiences than ever before as we each come to innovations from our current place of understanding and unless we are aiming at a small niche audience, we need to mix up our delivery system to an extent, so that we reach a broader multitude.

Ultimately, as quickly as we move to understand the current landscape and as quickly as that landscape changes, people of many different competencies must find ways of communicating with each other in order to fine-tune each new advance.

And the question I would ask the people leading change right now is, do you want to lead a revolution that virtually nobody knows about and is itself in danger of circumvention by a counter-revolution of more popular proportions?  Because the danger of your words only being understood by a very few people is exactly that.

Learn to speak to those who should be the ones benefiting from your innovations, or seek collaboration with those who can speak to them, and your words may be received in the manner you intended, as opposed to through the lens of their perception

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Andy Capaloff

Andy Capaloff is the COO of Curatti. Prior to moving into the world of Content Marketing, Social Media Management and the day-to-day running of a Digital Marketing company, Andy spent over 3 decades in various aspects of IT. It is here that he honed his writing and technical skills, and his ability to ask uncommon questions.
Filed Under: Tagged With: Collaboraton, Communication, Editorial, Misconception, Words