Some Malfunctions of Communication
•Communication is imperfect•Reality is infinite and complex and we communicate about reality•Every mental filter is unique so people don’t understand exactly same thing even by same words•Language uses words which loosely refer to the reality, just like a globe and the real world•Due to all these reasons, miscommunication takes place
Malfunction also stem from:
Language imperfectionsIncorrect thinking patternGeneral semanticists believe thatAristotlianlogic is the main cause of 5 malfunctions. They are:
Two –valued thinking
It is also called either/or logical pattern in our cultureIn some of the cases two valued thinking works well.For example, You will fail or pass in an exam- you will have children or not- you will earn money or not…But most of the time multi-valued situation exists
We should not put things in extreme all the time. For example, all people are not either fat or skinny, things are not either hot or cold, people are not either black or white…English language contains an abundance of either/or words and there is an extreme shortage of in- between words. For example, Sweet Vs sour- what are the tastes in between them? What do you call them?
The danger involved
If two valued words are appropriate, use themIf not, don’t use themFor example, Are workers either lazy or industrious? What about the degree of their laziness? Can you call political leaders either liberal or conservatives? If I am not good, can you call me bad?The answer is – we must try to avoid such mistakes. Multi-valued situation also exists.
Then what to do?
Try to be specific in choice of wordsDon’t always fall in the trap of two-valued thinkingTry to use quantitative measures such as instead of “she is an excellent student” say “ She has got 3.9 CGPA. Instead of saying “ he is fat” say “he is 300 pound in five foot 4 inch frame”!Use middle ground words if necessary- exceptionally, moderately as well as etc.To talk about taste you can use- sweet, sour, sugary, saccharine, candied, honeyed, acidic, tart, astringent, vinegary, acetous, etc.
The sentences like “ the 4 functions of communication…” might be dangerous because there might be 5 or more functions of communication!Avoid such know-it-all statements.
Applications in Business communication
Two- valued thinking applies to reports, letters, and speaking tooSometimes we need yes or no answers in business but not always. Compromised decisions or other alternatives often are possible.
2. Fact-inference confusion
Some experiences are actual. Communication about our experiences is true communication. For example, I bought a car in five hundred thousand.But we can not always be factual.We need to talk about events or things which we really don’t know. We just need to infer. For example, I saw Harry in a new bike and I asked him how much did he pay for that. Actually it was not his bike. I inference was wrong.Such inferences might result in miscommunication.
Need for inferences
We can’t totally avoid inferences. We can’t limit ourselves to what we know. We need to infer. We need to predict many things.We can’t know everything with which we must deal in life.But inferences involve risks. To live, we must calculate risks and make inferences. For example, When you are driving and see an approaching car, you will infer that the other driver is a normal person like you who will not just kill you and get killed! If your inference turned out to be wrong, you will have a tough time.
We must infer that cooks in restaurants are normal human beings and they don’t poison us without any reason. But sometimes our inferences turns out to be wrong and we may get poisoned!So we must make inferences in our life. But they can be a source of miscommunication.
Effect of inferences on communication
When we are unable to distinguish between fact and inference, that may bring problems.For example , I saw some baldheaded sales person who made a good sale and I made a conclusion-”All bald-headed sales persons are great since they make good sales”. The truth is that I may be wrong.We must understand the risk of inferences. We should calculate well before we speak.
Calculating the probabilities
While using inferences, we must calculate the probabilities of correctness of our inferences.Sometimes the book you saw in a library shelf might not be a book. It might be just a cover!While making inferences, be aware of reality and check inferences against it.
Its importance in BC
Fact-inference confusion has many consequences for business communication.In report writing, it plays a great role. Sometimes, we must infer.While interpreting facts, we must generalize.Fact-inference confusion might play a vital role even in letter writing. In a letter refusing a request, for example, a bluntly worded answer is likely to lead the reader to infer that the writer is unfriendly.Application letter with errors might result into negative judgments from employers.
3. The Blocked Mind
A blocked mind is one that is closed to realityIt works on limited information and ignores or rejects additional informationIt is partially correct
A result of opinions, attitudes and beliefsOur tendencies to reject the ideas that oppose our viewpoints is a cause of the blocked mindIt might seriously hamper communication
A result ofallnessAllnesscontributes to the blocked mind. It is the tendency to judge the whole by part.It happens because of our pride that we know everything.It is the result of ignoring the facts. We select few characteristics and boast that we know everything.We tend to think that our limited reference is the whole.
For example, we say that Einstein was a scientist. Is he just a scientist? Is he not a father? Is he not somebody’s lover?...Emphasizing only on one characteristics leads to stereotypingFor example, you bought a detergent and it spoilt your cotton cloth. You concluded that detergent is not good for cloth.But it might be good for woolen clothes. so it is dangerous to make hasty stereotypes.
Extreme effects of the blocked mind
Blocked mind prevent good communicationKnow-it-all results from blocked mindActually nobody knows about everythingArguments result from blocked mind. If both of the parties have blocked mind, they will continue their argument/quarrel.
Unblocking the mind
It is difficult to unblock our mind but it is possible to a great extent100% unblocking is impossible but it is possible to unblock to a certain degree about certain things.We should try to find out rational approaches. We should have eagerness to learn.We should try to be rational, try to learn as much as possible, ask questions, check your understanding against reality all the time.
We should always add “etc” to all statements that we speak. It is because we know only a little about reality.Alfred Korzybski asked people to use “etc’ at the end of almost all statements to be on the safe side. At least, we should use it mentally.
Effects on Business Communication
Blocked minds seriously hamper business activitiesYou make reports, but your boss is not ready to understandYou say something and they understand something else.
4. Thestatic viewpoint
We often view reality as static. Because reality is always changing, such views cause miscommunication .
Theunstaticnature of things
Reality is changing. We must realize this fact. A thief is not always a thief.We must have up-to-date references of people and places. The reality changes and we must accept this fact.
The contributing factor of language
Language is limited and it does not allow us to acknowledge all changes in reality.We have tenses, dates, and time references in our language but they are not enough.For example, we say- Henry is a scoundrel. When? Was he a scoundrel at the age of 5?Is he always a scoundrel? Better say- Henry, age 35, is a scoundrel.
The static viewpoint in business communication
Written and oral communication in business must reflect time changes, if they do not, miscommunication will occur.
5. Failure to discriminate
Uniqueness is common to all events and objects. Thus, seeing similarities rather than differences is contrary to the nature of things. It also results in miscommunication, to some degree.Language, built on broad categories force us to view similarities. But no two objects are same.
Miscommunication from stereotypes
Focusing on similarities force us to form serotypes . But because everything in reality is unique, stereotypes can not be true to fact.Professor refers to tens of thousands of people in the world. Just think about the differences between and among them!We hold many serotypes, but all of them distort reality. Are all women same? Are all apples same? Are all grains of sand same? No. There are differences that stereotypes distort.
Judgments by categories
We try to make judgments trying to cover all things within a category.We try to judge professors by some generalized remarks. Is it possible?We try to judge thieves? Is it true that all thieves are same and they deserve same punishment?We often make judgments such as – students are like this…Are our judgments true? Can we make such generalized statements ignoring the variety that exists?There are differences even within same categories. Extreme judgment by category are often incorrect. They oftenmiscommunicate.
Developing an awarenessof differences
Be aware of the differences that exists within all categoriesAnother way is to index references. For example, professor 1, professor 2 etc.At least do it at mental levelMentally index all statements that involve stereotypes. For example, woman ,which woman? professor, which professor? Etc.In business environment, we need to be aware of such differences.
We have noted five malfunctions of communication. Each of them has variations.To avoid miscommunication, one advice is : keep in touch with reality, be better acquainted with the real world and check our communication against it.When our communication and the real world are not in harmony, we will have miscommunication.
What are the factors that cause malfunction of communication? Explain each of them with examples.How can we minimize such errors in our communication? Give suggestion.