Communication – we all do it, every day most often times without even thinking about it. Exactly what is communication? By definition communication is the exchange of information between individuals (PSU, 2020). Let’s talk a bit about egocentrism and other errors (noise or biases) that can occur when communicating. Egocentrism is the inability to take on other people’s perspectives (PSU, 2020). People who experience this believe that others only think, feel and experience life as they do. They often make incorrect assumptions when they are encoding or decoding messages. It is common in children and even adolescence, but often carries over into adulthood. This can occur during message creation and interpretation. Communication does not necessarily mean understanding and can easily be taken out of context.
Advertising is one such form of communication. It is a way that merchants appeal to potential customers via television, newspapers, social media, etc. One example of a questionable advertisement is the following:
This is offensive in several ways, especially to women and children. It is ironic that women were in fact the very market base of consumers who they were appealing to purchase their products. This ad appeared in 1975, and I am sure the originator did not intend for the receiver to be troubled by the image. Thankfully, times have changed and we do not see exploitation of children anymore, however sexually suggestive ads still occur.
Another example of in the world of communication involves cultural factors. Intercultural communication is a process whereby individuals from different cultural backgrounds attempt to share meanings (Moran, Harris & Moran, 2011). With the complexity of different cultures and languages, the opportunity for egocentrism definitely presents itself, especially if using email as the form of communication. An initial introduction can also fall victim to miscommunication as demonstrated by the following cartoon showcasing non-verbal communication:
Photo credit: www.global-integration.com
Non-verbal signs and gestures or body language are used in all cultures and a gesture can mean one thing to an American individual yet that simple gesture can have a different meaning to someone in Japan.
Here are a few tips that will help you effectively communicate, and hopefully avoid your own communication errors. First, be respectful and be sure to make sure your message is clear. Be sure to listen to the person you are communicating with and try to remove all biases prior, which will lead to a good exchange of information. Recognize that your exact knowledge, beliefs and perceptions are unique and only valid for yourself (Moran, Harris & Moran, 2011). Demonstrate empathy and have a tolerance for ambiguity. Lastly, I have learned to know your audience or who you are communicating with in advance. A little bit of history and research can become very valuable to get your point across, come to an agreement or make a sale.
Moran, R., Harris, P., & Moran, S. (2011). Managing Cultural Differences (8th ed., p. 39 – 49). Burlington: Butterworth Heinemann.
Forbes Council (2020). Council Post: 15 Ways To Overcome Communication Errors As A Business Leader. Retrieved 17 September 2020, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescoachescouncil/2018/08/24/15-ways-to-overcome-communication-errors-as-a-business-leader/#7c19d4cb6ea5