Although we think we are saying something particular, if the other person misunderstands it, their misunderstanding is the message they have taken from our communication. It’s the only possible message they could take.
Think of situations when someone is communicating with you. A part of the communication is subconscious so, by definition, you’re not aware of it. A lot of the remaining conscious communication is non-verbal so difficult to discuss. Nevertheless, when you’re receiving communication from someone, you can only interpret it according to your own abilities: knowledge of language, experience of their and others’ communication, own world view and so on.
If the other person’s communication requires you to know or understand something which you just don’t, you will substitute what you do know and understand as best you can. Again, this is partly a subconscious process, so you’re not aware you’re doing it.
A classic example is then prime minister Margaret Thatcher saying “There is no such thing as society”. Although her apologists to this day insist she was quoted out of context—and she meant something else entirely—the message that most people got was “There is no such thing as society”. [More on this.]
This might seem flatly to contradict the first principle, but it doesn’t because meaning and outcome aren’t the same things.
When we communicate we are only too clear what we mean. What we communicate may be an attempt to disguise our true message, but the truth gets through. In particular, our words might say one thing, but the totality of our conscious and subconscious communication is actually communicating something else which the recipient is only too capable of picking up.
One might surmise that Thatcher actually did believe that there is no such thing as society and the recipients of the message saw through what was ostensibly communicated to what was really meant. [More on this.]
A lot of the difficulties these two principles illustrate can be avoided by applying the precept, “Trust others with what is on your mind”. In other words, set your intention to communicate clearly what you really mean, and the other person will pick it up.
I am grateful to Chuck Spezzano and some of his Psychology of Vision trainers for elucidating these principles for me
> Principles of leadership
by Jeremy Marchant . © 2013 Jeremy Marchant Limited . uploaded 1 june 2015 . image: Free images