Did communication Actually Happen?

George Bernard Shaw said, “The biggest problem with communication is the assumption that it happened.” In a world bustling with constant chatter, it’s easy to assume that communication flows seamlessly. But as George Bernard Shaw wisely pointed out, the crux of the issue lies in the very assumption that communication has taken place. His words hold a mirror to a common pitfall we often overlook – the illusion that our messages are received as intended.

In my recent work with executive teams, miscommunication has been the root of tension and conflict. So often the team would claim communication as a strength – in terms of quantity; many emails sent, conversations had, and texts exchanged. And in the same breath they would state that communication is a challenge, no-one knows what is happening; we are often puzzled by misunderstandings? The challenge is the quality of the communication. Shaw’s words remind us that true communication is a collaborative effort, requiring not just the articulation of our thoughts, but framing the message for the benefit of the audience, also active listening, and mutual understanding.

In a time when digital platforms amplify the reach of our words, misinterpretations can easily arise. Tone, context, and emotions often get lost in translation, leading to confusion and even conflicts. To truly bridge this gap, we must cultivate the art of empathetic communication. This involves not only speaking clearly but also embracing open-mindedness when interpreting the words of others.

A few considerations:

  • Communicate the message a few times in different ways.
  • Speak the language of your audience, we adjust our communication for little children and elderly to make sure that it is received, but not for our peers.
  • Intentions are cute, the only thing that matters is how the message is received. Double check for understanding, what did the other person hear and understand from what was said.

Shaw’s insight serves as a guidepost, prompting us to question assumptions and actively seek feedback. By doing so, we can transcend the surface-level exchange of words and delve into meaningful dialogues, fostering connections that are built on genuine understanding rather than presumptions. So, let’s heed Shaw’s wisdom and remember that authentic communication demands our conscious effort to ensure the message is not just sent, but also truly received.