What Can Computers Teach Humans About Communication?
Communication in a perfect world might look something like this:
Humans might take it upon themselves, to borrow from the information transmission system employed by computers. Imagine that the example below mimics the process that two computers would go through to exchange ONE piece of information!
- Person A feels a need to communicate something to Person B
- Person A encodes his thoughts, emotions and impulses into words that they think Person B is likely to understand
- Person A opens up a channel of communication with Person B by getting their attention, and checking in to see if they are receptive to receiving A’s message.
- Person A then speaks his words sending them in the direction of Person B.
- Person B is attentive and tuned into Person A, wishing and wanting to receive A’s message as best as they are able to. Person B may also block out any unwanted sensory information so as to be able to better receive A’s message.
- Person B receives (hears) every word and non-verbal signal and interprets their meaning exactly the way A wishes them to be understood.
- Person B makes a concise and relevant summary of what he received (heard) and interpreted from Person A and repeats it for confirmation.
- Person A responds and validates that the information received is exactly what had been transmitted, and was interpreted exactly as A had wished.
- There is a pause, Person A is deciding whether to transmit more information while observing whether Person B is about to speak or is in listening mode.
Possible Theoretical Exchange
(Husband To Wife)
– I want to tell her that I’m hungry……
– “Excuse me, but I have something that I would like to share with you”
– “I’m hungry!” (including raised tone of voice and arms waving in air)
– The other turns their full attention to the first person. Other turns off TV
and asks children to be quiet as their father is making a major pronouncement.
– The other believes that they have heard the first person say “I’m hungry” and
has also recorded an elevated tone of voice and gesticulations with arms.
– The other then summarizes what they heard and speaks it back to him ensuring
that she has his attention. “I heard you say that you are hungry! Is that correct?”
(Please note addition of exclamation mark to denote that the urgency or
importance of the message was properly received with emotional signals
registered as well as the accompanying non-verbal gestures to add emphasis)
– The first person then replies back, while possibly smiling, “yes that is exactly what I said!”(Please note additional exclamation mark indicating first person’s pleasure at having had
his message successfully received)
– There is a pause while the second person attempts to figure out why the first person is
informing them of their hungered state. Second person may begin to wonder whether
the first person is incapable or knowing what to do to address said state. Or they may even assume that the first person is informing them of their hungered state so that they may
remedy the situation for them.
Second goes through many possible interpretations and reasons for why the first might have provided this information at this exact time during their favourite television program. Second person checks in with their emotional guidance system and finds the subroutine for annoyance running. Second person overrides helpfulness routine in favour or annoyance subroutine and replies.
– “Do I look like your mother? You know where the fridge is! I’m in the middle of my
favourite show here!”
– First person terminates wishing- to- share- a- part- of- myself- with- my- beloved routine
and begins to choose among the following candidates: frustration, self-righteousness,
anger as well as guilting subroutines.
– Dinner is served much later to the sound of accompanying silence.
Hopefully your interactions aren’t like this fictitious one! But the point is that there
is a LOT to sharing a piece of ourselves with our partners in the hope of being well
received. Transmitting our messages accurately, and in a manner that they will be
well received and not falsely interpreted can be at times nerve-wracking when stress is high and many things consume us in our daily lives.
This is a very small snippet of communication, much less a “conversation”. Although because of possible lack of awareness of message receptivity levels amongst many other factors, what could have been a conversation stopped with a screeching halt. The example is small and insignificant and largely unlikely in most home discussions, however I believe that the utility of it goes to show a small slice of the possible iceberg that may be underlying our conversations on a day to day basis.
Assess for message receptivity before starting off. Not just a willingness to listen, but draw upon past experiences and interactions and knowledge of our partners to determine an approach that has a greater likelihood of success for both parties.
“Honey, I know you’re deep into your program, but would you let me take you out to that new Italian place that you’ve been wanting to try?”
TV is turned off. Wife grabs coat and is waiting for husband to get going by the door.
For more articles on Communication, click here for Communication Tip #1!