What is communication anyway
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What is communication, anyway?. Thinking and acting with probabilities. 1. Language is inherently ambiguous. Examples Ok, what’s the big deal? “If I say something which you understand fully in this respect, I probably made a mistake.” - Alan Greenspan.

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What is communication, anyway?

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What is communication anyway

What is communication, anyway?

Thinking and acting with probabilities.


1 language is inherently ambiguous

1. Language is inherently ambiguous.

  • Examples

  • Ok, what’s the big deal?

  • “If I say something which you understand fully in this respect, I probably made a mistake.” - Alan Greenspan


2 the comm process can be described in terms of probabilities

2. The comm. process can be described in terms of probabilities.

  • The sender typically only sees one possibility. The receiver may:

    • see same same possibility

    • see different possibility

    • can not determine the correct possibility


Prop 2 cont

Prop. 2 cont.

  • The sender may purposely use language to promote multiple probabilities

    • Equivocate

    • Verbal Rorschach

    • Examples: Rec. Letter: “I’m pleased to say this person is a former colleague of mine” or “You will be very fortunate to get this person to work for you”

  • The receiver may purposely misunderstand


3 context building is a dynamic process

3. Context building is a dynamic process

  • “Hand it to me”

  • Misleading images

  • Which exerts most power?

    • Context

    • Content


4 context is solidified interpretations that shape probabilities

4. Context is “solidified interpretations” that shape probabilities.

  • Unwritten agreements (rules)

  • That are not deterministic

  • But strongly influential


5 context is created dynamically individually through interaction with others

5.Context is created dynamically & individually through interaction with others.

  • Context is different than situation

  • Interaction patterns vary from person-to-person


6 context is an efficient mechanism for comm

6. Context is an efficient mechanism for comm.

  • Acronyms

  • Coordination mechanism


7 the context can become so powerful it acts like a black hole

7. The context can become so powerful it acts like a “black hole”.

  • Adolf Hitler

  • IBM

  • When words lose their power, only force remains.


Context construction is uniquely sensitive to time sequencing

Context construction is uniquely sensitive to time sequencing.

  • Noncommutativity A +B = B+ A

  • skyscraper, cathedral, temple, prayer

  • prayer, temple, cathedral, skyscraper


9 all comm carry secondary messages

9. All comm. carry secondary messages.

  • Intentional

  • Unintentional


10 while interpretations are relative the process of creating meaning is not

10. While interpretations are relative, the process of creating meaning is not.

  • Understanding is not a hopeless task.

  • Focus on the process, not the words, not even the people.


So what

So what?

  • Explore the context of employees (MBWA)

  • Check for possible misunderstandings, even if you think you are understood

  • Use the “black out” technique to communicate messages that are likely to be misunderstood.


So what cont

So what? cont.

  • Recognize that law of “large numbers”. As numbers grow larger, anything can happen. (Harrier Jets and Pepsi)

  • Build contexts with employees.

  • Focus on employee interpretations not the message (What they heard vrs. What you said)


So what cont1

So what? Cont.

  • Become sensitive to unwitting secondary messages.

  • Frame messages carefully (e.g. Cashman).

  • Carefully manage employee expectations

    • Silent benchmarks

    • “Under-promise over-deliver”


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