Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Beware the Noise!

How do we communicate? In the classic model one person sends a message and another receives it. This takes place over a medium. The sender and receiver then feed information back and forth. If it were that simple, of course, we'd all communicate beautifully with no misunderstandings. Indians and Pakistanis would live in perfect harmony. Hamas and Israel would break bread together.

Seldom does a message flow so smoothly, though. Cultural differences interfere and contexts are ever changing. Senders and receivers push messages continuously and, often, simultaneously. They send feedback that is often misunderstood or ignored. (When we fail to send a message, for instance, we are communicating.) The messages travel on/in media that are often unreliable and create messages in and of themselves. (If you send your wife roses, you need no words! )

Most communications are rife with problems, unfortunately, given the many nuances in language, vocabulary, body language, media and the like. And, to make matters worse, all communicators must deal with the increasing amounts of interference, as well as competing media and messages, all of which is appropriately called NOISE!!

Our environment is overrun with billboards, TV ads, popups, posters, advertising scrawled everywhere, including toilet stalls and human skin. This creates the tremendous amount of CLUTTER we deal with (or ignore) every day of our lives.

How bad is the clutter? In 2006, 9 trillion emails were sent (250 billion every day). In 2007, according to Technorati, 120,000 new blogs were created every day with 1.4 million posts every day or 1000 new entries every minute.

In March 2008, users viewed 11.5 billion online videos, according to Video Metrix. According to another source, 5 billion instant messages are sent every day, along with the 200 billion pieces of snail mail, delivered by the USPS every year. Add to that the 75-100,000 books published in America each year, the thousands of magazines competing for our attention, the 500+ cable stations, and millions of web sites we have to choose from and we have enough distraction to drive us batty!

All of this means that we need to communicate carefully, if we want to create "shared understanding," a good definition of communication. To be effective, to insure that both sender and receiver share the same understanding of a message, we must begin by being beware of the clutter. We must beware the noise! We must write and speak clearly, concisely and coherently. This means, too, that we must think clearly, understanding our purpose and understanding our audience. In other words, we must work at communicating, and work hard. Are you ready for that challenge?

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