Communication: It’s a Tricky Bloke

Posted by Jason Gladfelter, M.A. on March 25, 2013  /   Posted in Communication During Conflict

Communication: It’s a Tricky Bloke

One of the central issues of conflict is communication.  Communication is more than the passing of information, which is sent as a message. At its basic level, a message has four components: content, sender, the medium, and the receiver. Each contains complexities and maintains influence over information passed (even silence can send a message). Sending a message with 100% accuracy is rare indeed.  During its lifetime a message and its meaning have a good chance of being altered, misunderstood, lost, or manipulated.  Too much damage to the message could send interlocutors into dispute, and getting out may prove difficult.

Working on misinformation from a distorted message can create all kinds of headaches. Indeed, if one were to assume all information received is 100% correct 100% of the time, then big trouble would closely follow. For the most part, on a basic level, we humans have realized this. We ask for some clarity, “what do you mean?” and repetition, “could you repeat that?”  or “what?”. While this helps, it is not solely reliable. This is not to say that every message needs intense scrutiny–that would be impossible and quite inefficient.  Yet, there are some occasions where scrutiny and attention to detail is beneficial. Mostly, this is during important, vital or new communications. Getting messages wrong in these circumstances can be harmful.

Fortunately, people can take precautions to prevent such damage before it sets in, or mitigate its effects. It is simple to state that “knowing that complexities exist in communication helps its effectiveness”, but it is valid, just a bit difficult to maintain, especially in on-the-go dealings in real life situations.  Getting caught up in a circle of miscommunication hampers efforts of clarification. A third party, not involved in the communication, is best suited to handle clarification, and the disputes that have most likely come up due to the fog of communication.

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