Communicating—not as easy as you think

Getting our message across to another person is a complicated process. You may have wondered why it can be so difficult at times.

Over my many years, I’ve seen careless and even sloppy communications. This phenomenon seems to be getting worse, particularly through the use of Technojungle technologies. It happens even with highly educated people. Even worse is that people usually don’t bother to consider why their communication efforts fail and don’t seem to want to improve on their skills. I do get frustrated. I try to write clear thoughtful E-mails for example, reading and editing before I send. Often people don’t bother to read the entire E-mail and may just respond to the first thing that hits them. This is yet another frustrating phenomenon. Certainly the Technojungle brings us amazing ways to communicate, yet if not used carefully, Technology-mediated communication can be less effective than expected.

Communicating is an extremely important animal endeavour. For me as a human, it is crucial and complex. If we did not have a need to communicate, we would not need to have language to transmit our feelings, emotions, concepts, thoughts and ideas as information. I believe having a good understanding of the basic foundational ideas covered in the first section of this book is going to make what you read more understandable, valuable and effective. This will help you to make good choices in the ways you choose to be human in the Technojungle. I want this book to be humanizing. 

A lot of what follows may seem like simple common sense. But most of us must be forgetting this simple common sense because I see so many struggles with the myriad ways we have to communicate in the Technojungle. I find it is good to stop and think; to look, see, and ask.

As I transmit my feelings, emotions, concepts, thoughts and ideas to you through this Technojungle book, aren’t they simply letters forming words that, once arranged, become information on the page? What do you need to do; what is your part; what must happen? You have to read the words, sentences and paragraphs, and then attach meaning and understanding. You may then have your own feelings, emotions, concepts, thoughts and ideas about what I have conveyed. Hopefully we will share similar meanings and understandings.

Can you think of a time when you told somebody something, only to find out later that they did not remember or did not do something you asked of them? This happens often in my life and to all of us because we are human. I am not perfect and my communication activities are not perfect. You might have thought you had communicated something to the other person, yet they did not get your message, so what happened?

I can recall a game where a group of people sit in a circle. One person starts by whispering a story, or something with some length and details, in the ear of a person next to them. Then the story is repeated from one person to the next all around the circle. At last the final version of the story is compared to the original. The results would be amazing and even humorous. It’s a fun game, however, it is also a good demonstration of how careful we must be with our communicating. Experts say that most people can remember between four and seven things at once.

Consider this. For centuries large amounts of information were transmitted orally, often through story, poem and song, which would help with memory and understanding. Why do you think we seem to be unable to transmit large amounts of information to each other orally? How could long ancient works, such as the Greek works of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey be transmitted orally for centuries before finally being written?

Is one-way transmission of information communication? The Technojungle would like you to think it is. In some ways it is, but isn’t this actually broadcasting? I usually associate the term broadcasting with radio and TV. This was a word I heard all the time years ago. Programs on radio and TV were called radio broadcasts or television broadcasts. People would say they were going to listen to the news broadcast. I find that this term has almost disappeared as newer Technojungle technologies have emerged, but that just may be my experience. 

Would it be a good idea to include broadcasting as part of more general forms Technojungle communication? How do we differentiate between one-way and two-way communications in the Technojungle? 

When I transmit information, either in person, or by means mediated by Technojungle computer technology, it must not only be received, it also needs to be understood. How do I know if these two important aspects of communicating, receiving and understanding, are occurring? I need some sort of acknowledgment or feedback. To close the deal, I might also need to know that, if needed, the message was acted on. If I ask someone to do something and they do it, I know they acted. The communication process was successful.  

Communicating seems very simple. So why can our communication attempts often become confusing and even fail? What makes good communicating? Are you careful to understand when your Technojungle communication experience is one-way or two-way? Do you consider the limitations of the way you are communicating through the Technojungle? Something usually gets communicated, however it may not be exactly what was intended.

Suppose the person was busy when I attempted my communication and what if I didn’t have their attention? Lack of attention when receiving a message can often cause a loss of the message and, of course, loss of understanding. How many times have you heard, “…in one ear and out the other…”? Or, “I didn’t understand what you meant.” I find it so easy for people to miss meaning and experience misunderstanding, and this applies particularly in the Technojungle.

If the person was not, or couldn’t be, looking directly at me, a large portion of the message seems to get lost. Researchers say that around 80 percent of what a person says when they talk to another person is non-verbal. Some of the message might be in gestures, facial expressions, other body language along with inflections in one’s voice. If you want to communicate your message in the best way possible, shouldn’t you be face-to-face with the other person(s), not using Technojungle technology (other than language), and make sure you have their entire attention? Then you can express your message in a dynamic way and use whatever you need to make your communication clear and accurate.

There is one more important piece of the puzzle that I have not mentioned enough of—the medium (the means by which your message travels). Think about the various Technojungle mediums you use to communicate? How effective are they? What goes wrong? What is the main, most common and most important medium? 

If I am standing face-to-face close together, air is the main medium for your communication. You would not be able to talk in outer space where there is no air. Well, you might be able to lip-read, if you could see their face. I wonder if we sometimes lip-read without realizing and that becomes part of why face-to-face communication works so well?

My wife will sometimes say something to me while she is looking in a cupboard, or some other way, not facing me. Women are busy, I realize, but then she wonders why I didn’t hear her. I would say that we all probably do things like this when we communicate. 

As I age, my hearing has changed. Much of this is normal hearing loss due to age, however, my difficulties are compounded by a rather common problem called Tinnitus. This is non-existent noise in one’s head that never stops. If there is extra noise in the environment, I have further difficulties hearing. In short, I have to be ever more careful about my communications.

I find there’s much more that can get in the way of successful communication. Like my Tinnitus, noise of various kinds causes interference making it difficult for the other person to hear and understand. The other person may not have enough background to understand what I am saying, or may not speak and understand the same language as you. Can you think of some other obstacles your message can face which can lead to your message being misunderstood?  

The other person’s perception and perspective on the topic also has a huge impact on their understanding. If you ask someone to make you buttered toast and the other person has never made toast, well, something could go wrong. If the other person doesn’t know what toast is and doesn’t tell you this because they did not hear and understand your message, you won’t be getting any toast.

As I safari through the Technojungle everyday, I try to consider how communications can humanize or dehumanize me and people I communicate with. Sometime I get that old ‘message in a bottle’ feeling when I send out a message. I hit send on an E-mail, or other non-direct Technojungle communications tool, and then I wonder. What sort of reply will I get? Will it cover what was in my message, or will I have to try to extract a more comprehensive reply using another E-mail? Will their reply indicate they actually read my message? Will I even get a reply? 

Observe one-way and two-way communication and how effective they are. You can come up with some surprising results. Can you come up with some ways you can humanize your communications more?

It is important to understand one more aspect of communication. Our communications can be in forms that are synchronous or asynchronous (non-direct, not at the same time). Can you explain the differences between synchronous and asynchronous and give some examples? What might be the pros and cons of each? If you are talking to someone fact-to-face or on a telephone, your communication is synchronous, or at the same time. If you write a letter or E-mail, your communication is asynchronous.

The communication model I have been discussing, which includes feedback, falls under what is known as Transactional Communications. As I communicate in the Technojungle and use methods of the Technojungle to communicate with other people, I need to be aware of how my communication happens, what can happen when I communicate, and when my communications can become disrupted and misunderstood. I am always wondering who else may have accesses to my communication and data and information. Ask yourself, how you, and all of us, are humanized or dehumanized by the various ways we communicate in and through the Technojungle?

Be challenged to use the information in this book to begin to make changes in your life. Changes toward being more human in the complex and dangerous Technojungle. I am attempting to communicate to you through this book, hopefully carefully and clearly so you can understand, some important issues regarding the Technojungle. This book is a form of broadcast communication because it is one-way. If I see people in the world changing and hear it is a result of reading this book, then the process will become two-way. In the future, I may even receive direct feedback through some other form of communication.

As in any jungle, you can easily get lost, or lose your humanness ways. I am taking what may seem like a large portion of the book to lay some foundations to help you in understanding the Technojungle better as you safari.

Good communicating can make you and others more human. It leads to information messages being internalized as knowledge and allows us to better understand each other and our world. 

Take some time to consider everything you have read in this book so far. Can you critique what I have discussed? Remember, I’m not claiming to be right. I’m presenting my observations and experiences along with my understandings. I want to get you to think about issues and perhaps begin conversations whereby we all may seek a more human life, being human beings, while living in the world which seems to be increasingly dominated by technology—the Technojungle.

You may begin to pay more attention to how well you communicate. It is absolutely necessary to have a shared experience with another person. Our creativity, language, information, knowledge and communications with each other allows for a very complex shared experience. What do we call this shared experience?


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