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Strategies for Avoiding Issues in Verbal Messages

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  • 0:01 Issues in Verbal Messages
  • 0:38 Intentional Orientation
  • 1:29 Allness
  • 2:20 Fact-Inference Confusion
  • 3:01 Indiscrimination
  • 3:39 Polarization
  • 4:26 Static Evaluation
  • 5:29 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

Communication is a major part of our daily lives, and so naturally we want to remove any barriers that get in the way. In this lesson, explore six basic barriers to good verbal communication and test your understanding with a brief quiz.

Issues in Verbal Messages

They say that one of the best ways to learn is by doing. Well, then, today is going to be interesting. We're talking about things to avoid in good verbal communication, or information that is spoken. We talk to a lot of people throughout our lives, so it's important to make sure that our messages are being received in the ways that we want them to be. But, in order for you to understand exactly how some things get in the way of good verbal communication, we're going to break the rules, and see where that takes us. This should be interesting.

Intentional Orientation

Okay, our field trip of learning good verbal communication starts here. Before we get off the bus, I've got to tell you about this person we're about to meet. He's a socially awkward nerd. See what just happened. You assumed that you know about that guy based on what I said about him.

The tendency to view people, objects, or events in terms of how they are talked about, rather than judging them for yourself, is called intentional orientation. Something we need to be aware of, and careful of in verbal communication, is using our descriptions of others in a way that encourages intentional orientation. In other words, in certain situations, we want to avoid influencing other people's views with our words.

Allness

Another trap many people fall into is judging an entire person or event based on limited amounts of information. This is called allness. Imagine being on a first date and assuming that you know everything about your date based on the first five minutes spent with them. This woman laughed at one reference the guy made to a movie, and now he assumes that she loves movies, is into cultural references, and had a standard childhood. That's allness.

We can avoid the trap of communicating allness to others by avoiding generalized statements that imply there's nothing else to know about. We can keep ourselves from allness by remembering that people only give us a glimpse into their lives and that the reality is much more complex.

Fact-Inference Confusion

The next stop on our field trip of poor communication habits is here. We are about discuss a classic example of fact-inference confusion, which is a misunderstanding based in not clarifying whether a statement is a fact or an inference. We make claims throughout our daily lives. Some are facts, some are opinions, and to maintain good verbal communication, it's important to distinguish between these. If it's cold outside and I say that it's going to be a cold winter, I'm making an assumption, an inference. Don't let yourself present opinions as facts, or the results could be…well, confusing.

Indiscrimination

Let's play this one a bit safer. Indiscrimination is the tendency to focus on someone as a member of a group, not as an individual. For example, I could say that all stockbrokers are the same; they just care about money. Or all cheerleaders are ditzy. Or all fantasy novels are weird. I'm not attempting to get to know these people or things on an individual basis, and not only is my verbal communication encouraging others to base their opinions in my prejudices, I'm actually reinforcing them for myself. So, make sure that your verbal messages aren't based in indiscrimination.

Polarization

Next, I'm going to need you to put on special glasses. See that, now the world is in black and white. The tendency to understand things as extremes is called polarization, and that's like looking at an issue as being black or white, while ignoring the shades of grey in between. People who fall into this trap tend to say things like 'are you with us or against us,' 'he's the good guy and she's the bad guy here,' or 'this better work or everything was a waste of time.' Okay, take the glasses off. In reality, things are not such polar extremes, and so good communication should reflect the complexity of issues, not their simplest forms.

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