Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Finally, static evaluation is the tendency to retain a judgment of a person despite changes to their personality. Try this. Pretend this maze is a person. The first time you meet with them, you learn how to navigate them, how to interact with them. But then, if you assume that this impression is never going to change, well, you're going into future conversations blindfolded. Their personality will change, sometimes a little, sometimes a lot, and if you're not ready for those changes, things could get a bit bumpy.
Understanding these six barriers of verbal communication can help you to connect your language and your word choice more accurately to the real world around you. Rather than letting your words create an abstract impression of reality, which can confuse others, you create a clear and distinct image. You understand what you're trying to say, and so does everyone else.
Welcome back from our field trip. The goal was examining good verbal communication, or information that is spoken, by looking at things that get in the way. Intentional orientation is the tendency to view people, objects, or events in terms of how they are talked about, rather than judging them for yourself. Allness is judging an entire person or event based on limited amounts of information.
We also discussed fact-inference confusion, which is a misunderstanding based in not clarifying whether a statement is a fact or an inference, and indiscrimination, the tendency to focus on someone as a member of a group, not as an individual. There's also the tendency to understand things as extremes, called polarization, and finally, static evaluation, the tendency to retain a judgment of a person despite changes to their personality. Avoiding these can open up a world of better verbal communication. Class dismissed.
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