On the Subject of Simple Communication

17 Mar

Is communication ever simple?

When we communicate with our fellow humans, so many things can go wrong.  We may say too much or too little.  We may use the wrong tone of voice or make incorrect assumptions about the listener.  We may thoughtlessly spread casual gossip.  We may unintentionally hurt, offend, confuse, mislead, deceive, interrupt, baffle, insult, ignore, irritate, or simply bore our audience.  When it comes to blogging and social media, mindful communication becomes even more of a concern.

I came across this verse in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little Town on the Prairie, and I think it speaks for itself in any century.

If wisdom’s ways you wisely seek,
Five things observe with care,
To whom you speak,
Of whom you speak,
And how, and when, and where.
~Your loving mother, C. L. Ingalls, De Smet, November 15th, 1881

Even in the days of covered wagons, communication was complicated and had to be handled with care.

While considering the complexity and perils of modern communication, I discovered some other interesting advice. (The quotations below are from thinkexist.com)

Good communication does not mean that you have to speak in perfectly formed sentences and paragraphs. It isn’t about slickness. Simple and clear go a long way.  ~John Kotter

To effectively communicate, we must realize that we are all different in the way we perceive the world and use this understanding as a guide to our communication with others.  ~ Anthony Robbins

The way we communicate with others and with ourselves ultimately determines the quality of our lives.  ~Anthony Robbins

I especially like the Anthony Robbins quote about communication and differences in perception, because I find that some people respond poorly to my verbal communication style, which is more straight forward than my writing style.  I believe that honesty is the simplest policy, in most cases.  Much fuss has been made about the differences in communication styles between men and women, but I find as much difficulty – if not more – between the communication styles of different generations and different cultures, and also with a number of individuals who plainly do not share my direct approach.

When have you had trouble communicating because of differences in communication style?

Have you attributed the difficulty to sex, age, culture, or individual perspectives?

9 Responses to “On the Subject of Simple Communication”

  1. bigsheepcommunications March 17, 2011 at 10:26 am #

    I think people also have much shorter attention spans these days, so that if you talk too much or provide too much background or detail, your listener’s (or reader’s) attention will likely drift away. At the other end of the spectrum, if you’re too brief, people might interpret that as being abrupt.

    I think communicating in very straightforward manner is wonderful, as long as you do so gently.

  2. Aligaeta March 17, 2011 at 12:23 pm #

    I’ve been writing a lot about the subject. Communicating your wants, needs, and desires, or your insecurities and your disappointments; require active listeners. Well, lets face it: they don’t want to hear it. It may require action on their part. I found that lately, in my life stating a request, letting it rest, and then revisiting the request another day seems to result in action without nagging. Nice post.

  3. philgeland March 25, 2011 at 8:15 pm #

    Thanks for the inspiration.
    What a poem!

    • acleansurface March 25, 2011 at 10:56 pm #

      Glad you liked it, philgeland! So simple and yet so meaningful, it stopped me cold when I was reading aloud to my son.

  4. jdhoward April 17, 2011 at 1:29 pm #

    Great wisdom here. I tend to be a long winded person. Worst thing… I’m painfully aware of how it exhausts the attention of my listeners, but it’s the way I talk. I’m working on it though. I like the statement – Simple and clear go a long way. That is very true.

    • acleansurface April 17, 2011 at 2:14 pm #

      Thank you for your comment, jd. We all have our communication idiosyncrasies, and being aware of them is the first step toward improving our interpersonal communication.


  1. On The Subject of Simple Communication « deutsch – português – english - March 25, 2011

    […] L. Ingalls, De Smet, November 15th, 1881 Dito. from → IN ENGLISH ← Mapa das usinas nucleares na Alemanha LikeBe the first to […]

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