The communication process isn’t as straight-forward as we think it is. Often, the message we send across to another isn’t interpreted as we’d hope it’ll be. Misinterpretations or better known as misunderstandings cause problems that could’ve well been avoided. Misunderstanding is just one of the products of the myths of communication. These myths are wrong perceptions of communication. They are wrong principles of communication that we assume are right.
One of the myths of communication is that we communicate only when we consciously and deliberately choose to communicate. However, fact is, we sometimes send messages unconsciously and when we do not intend to as well. This may be in the form of a delayed reply to a business offer, causing the offerer to assume that you are no longer interested in that offer.
Another myth is that words mean the same thing to our listeners as they do to us. The basis for this myth is that we assume words have the same meaning for everyone. This is not entirely true. While common words like ‘chair’ most probably will not be misunderstood, the word ‘apple’ may carry different meanings to different people other than a fruit. To some it might be the ‘Apple’ computer. Meanings of words can be divided into denotative and connotative parts. Denotative meanings are those that have commonly agreed upon meanings. Connotative meanings are ideas suggested by or associated with a word or thing. For example, ‘chair’ in a connotative sense might bring to mind a rocking chair or a bar stool. In unclear situations, we tend to agree on denotative meanings. Wrong perceptions of connotative meanings will cause misunderstandings.
The third myth is that we communicate primarily with words. Verbal communication is in fact one of the main ways to communicate. However, what we say might not be what our listener comprehends if our body language tells them otherwise. Body language, eye contact, posture, tone of voice, all contributes to the message we want to get across. Furthermore, our nonverbal communication undermines our verbal communication, especially where there is contradiction between what is communicated verbally and nonverbally.
Nonverbal communication is often mistaken as the silent language. Nonverbal communication is received through all the five senses. Other than body language, the tone of voice or clapping of hands is also considered as communicating nonverbally. Therefore it is not a silent language, in the whole sense of the word.
One of the biggest mistake or myth that we make about communication is that it is a one-way activity. The basis for this myth is the assumption that our message moves uninterrupted to the receiver and ends there. The element missing in one-way communications is feedback from the other person/s. Although communicating one-way proves faster than two-way communication, the feedback and interaction from the other person/s ensures the message is understood fully and thus avoiding any misunderstandings.
The myth: the message we send is identical to the message received by the listener is untrue, especially if communicating nonverbally. Because of influences that neither we nor our listener can control, our letter or telegram may not get across. Also, since no two persons have the same experiences, and the meaning of words stem from the experiences people have, the message as it is finally received by the listener is never exactly the same as the message we originally thought we sent.
The last myth is that you can never give someone too much information. While it is good to be able to obtain as much information as we desire, being bombarded with it causes confusion, stress, and ultimately a less productive workforce. We need to understand that we do not solve problems simply by providing more and more information.
In conclusion, we are so immersed in countless acts of communication that it is difficult to be objective about it. One way of learning more about the nature of communication is to study some of the variables present in most communication situations. We need to develop consciousness to these myths as well as the solutions to them. All of these things can be applied in the office place to improve relationships among managers – employees and among employees alike.