Skip to main content

Communication is perception

Never before in history has there been so many tools, equipment , techniques and channels available for communication. Yet, surprisingly, communication between people remains a huge problem. 

Could it be that we are focussing more on technique, style, technology rather than people?

What constitutes communication?

A communication has three components, the sender, the message and the receiver. 
Unfortunately most teachers of management and communications focus primarily on the message and the sender. What to send and how to send it?  Be aggressive, seductive etc etc. they teach. There appears to be little focus on the receiver.

Effective communication depends primarily on the recipient. If the recipient is unable or unwilling to listen then the message is lost if not rendered ineffective, just like the case of the tree crashing in the forest.

Every philosophical school of thought asks this question, "If a tree crashes down in the forest, and there is no one to hear it, will there be a sound?"
There will be noise but no sound. The answer therefore is, 'no', because there is no sound, unless it is perceived by someone. 

This means that fundamentally it is the recipient that is the one who communicates. The communicator who emits the communication only utters it. If there is no one to hear it there is no communication, just noise.

Why do people not receive the communications?
The most important reason is perception.
One can only communicate in the terms, reference that is within the perception capacity of the recipient. Just because we the sender/speaker understand it so clearly and obviously, it does not mean the recipient sees it the same way.

When we say there isn elephant, it is obvious to us what we mean. But recipients are like a group of blind men who have encountered an elephant. Each feels a different part of this incredible creature. One who feels the ear, thinks an elephant is like a big fan, another grabs the leg believes the elephant is like a tree trunk, etc. 

The perception of the elephant is different for each person unless they have experienced the whole creature or the different parts that we speak of. Effective communication takes place only when we first know what the recipient can see and why.

The human mind perceives only what it expects to perceive, within its frame of expectations. It resists nearly all attempts to 'change its mind'.

An excellent case that every newspaper editor knows, the powerful use of 'fillers'. These are three or five liner incidental irrelevant information used to 'balance' a page. These are remembered most by readers, because they place no demands on the recipient as compared to the large relatively complex articles.

Communication always makes demands on the recipient, to be somebody, do something, believe something. Communication has to meet the aspirations and expectations of the recipient for it to be effective. At its most powerful impact, effective communication brings about change in beliefs, values or behaviour. 

Next time you try to communicate, you might be more effective if you approach it from the recipients point of perception.


  1. I have been trying to post my comments under my own name and E-I'D,but have been unable to do so because of a response asking for "host URL"--what is this please explain.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Last thoughts and words of Emperor Aurangzeb

The 6th Mughal emperor of India, Aurangzeb was a brave but cruel man. While he was an excellent military leader, he was a weak administrator with poor understanding of economics. As a result he landed up being dependent on corrupt, fanatical people who only hungered for power and wealth.

Aurangzeb's lust for power was insatiable. In this quest he spared no one, imprisoning his own father, and slaughtering his brothers and nephews. He inherited an expanding empire which permitted him to rule the largest area of the Mughal empire's history, before he led it into decline. 

He felt that his actions had probably made him repugnant to the people and his legitimacy to rule would always be questioned. So he adopted a frugal life style and tried to be a good Muslim to appease the powerful clerics, soldiers, noblemen and the muslim public, which would allow him to rule effectively.

Like many other misguided men he came to believed that Islam meant only violent, subjugation and persecution.…

The Lopez Effect

Every now & then things get tough for a lot of organisations. This may be caused by technology, competition, recession or whatever. When the nasty stuff hits the fan, this is what typically happens at large organisations;

The CMD (Chairman & Managing Director) will call a meeting and scream and rant on how useless and lazy his entire management team is and how they have let the organisation's profitability slide. blah, blah, blah!!!!

The boss desperately searches for a scapegoat. Sometimes sacrificial lambs are found and a few heads roll and the situation only deteriorates because attacking people rather problems never helps. Sometimes the boss realises the truth, that there is no one individual or department or function that can be specifically blamed except the boss himself.

After venting his ire, the boss will issue a diktat to the management team. "I want my organisation to return to high profitability so this is what the team is going to do. I want you to reduce…

Spiral of death - Ants and Humans

Ants can sometimes get caught in a phenomenon called a spiral of death, in which the entire colony can become lost and disoriented and march in circles until they die of exhaustion. Because certain species of ants are essentially blind, they navigate by following pheromone trails left behind by other members of their colony; they use these scent markers to identify food supplies and find their way home. However, should enough of them lose the scent, they will begin to follow the ant immediately in front of them, forming an enormous death spiral in which they will essentially commit suicide.  Source: James Williams - fire ant expert.
Humans in society behave quite similarly . Sometimes we die physically, but more often than not we die intellectually and the vast majority of us die spiritually. Yet man is resilient and when he reaches the edge of existence will turn around and rise and evolve once again.