Here we talk about the principle that the meaning of a communication is what the recipient makes of it. We can only understand what someone says to us in the context of our own experiences and attitudes. We cannot import the other person into our minds. We used the example of the then prime minister Margaret Thatcher who was widely quoted as 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”.
The outcome of any communication is what we intend it to be says is that, even though consciously she intended to communicate something other than the message many people picked up, actually, at bottom, she really meant to say what everyone thought she said. Unconsciously, she wanted to communicate “there is no such thing as society”- and it’s important to remember she was unaware of this; consciously she elaborated a more complex message and genuinely communicated it. But her unconscious message got picked up anyway.
It is a deep principle of relationships that our partners show us what is unconscious in our minds, and the principle that ‘the outcome of any communication is what we intend it to be’ is a specific case of this.
> The meaning of a communication is what the recipient makes of it
> Being a hypocrite [on the Thatcher quotation]
by Jeremy Marchant . last updated 15 december 2014 . image: Free images