There is more to communication than meets the ear

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There is more to communication than meets the ear. Have you ever found yourself speaking to someone and getting the impression that they weren’t really listening? Of course you have, especially if you’ve had children.  That’s an example of communications breakdown, which was member Doug Campbell’s topic at the Sunday, November 24 meeting of the Pattaya City Expats Club.  Doug is a former speech and debate coach. He retired from teaching in 2008 and has lived in Pattaya since 2010.

Doug started his talk by providing a definition of “communication” – the transfer of meaning from the source to the receiver. This is “pure” communication, Doug said. If the receiver hears something but does not understand the meaning, then that is not really communication. Further, Communication is not about arguing or wanting to be right, it is about having your message understood.

Doug received many questions from the interested audience.Doug received many questions from the interested audience.

He explained that a message can be verbal or non-verbal; that’s why he uses the terms “source” and “receiver” instead of “speaker” and “listener.” He mentioned that “feedback” or “active listening” is when the receiver sends back a message confirming that the source’s meaning has been transferred. To take a simple example, Doug said, if the message from the source was, “I thought that the movie ‘Titanic’ was silly and boring,” the receiver might say, “I hear you saying that the movie ‘Titanic’ was silly and boring.”

He mentioned that communications can break down at the level of the source, the message or the receiver.

At the source, the breakdown can occur in the way the message was said. If the message is accompanied by name calling or yelling, or if the source uses an insincere tone or equivocates, the receiver might not be sure what the source meant. An example of this would be if the source says to the receiver, “I love you [pause] … for tonight.”

In terms of the message itself, communications breakdown can occur if one or more of the words are not entirely clear. For example, in the “Titanic” sentence above, how does the receiver know which version of the movie “Titanic” the source was referring to? [Editor’s note: There were three movies titled “Titanic” (1943, 1953 and 1997) and one called “Titanic II.” There were also two TV series with the name “Titanic.”]

At the level of the receiver, communications can break down if the receiver is not listening. The breakdown could be internal (e.g. the receiver has something else on his mind) or external (e.g. there is a television right above the source’s head).  In fact, TVs are the biggest source of distraction (even when they are turned off!), with other electronic devices coming a close second (e.g. phones, tablets).  Doug said sometimes the best place to have a conversation is in the kitchen.

During the Open Forum, member Roger Fox invited all to attend a performance of Handels ‘Messiah’ in Bangkok.During the Open Forum, member Roger Fox invited all to attend a performance of Handels ‘Messiah’ in Bangkok.

Communication can also be disrupted when the receiver fails to provide feedback to confirm that he understood the source correctly. When the receiver is distracted and did not hear what the source was saying, he suggested a good way to get the communication back on track, is to say: “I’m sorry. Can you repeat that? I care what you are saying, but I was not listening.”

Good communication requires the desire to “get” the source’s meaning, Further, he explained that good communication is not about winning, losing, being right or being wrong, but rather, it is about a transfer of meaning. Once you have good communication, you can move on to debate.

After Doug answered questions from the audience, Master of Ceremonies Richard Silverberg brought everyone up to date on upcoming events and called on Roy Albiston to conduct the Open Forum, where questions are asked and answered about Expat living in Thailand, especially Pattaya.

Learn more about the Club’s meetings and other activities by visiting their website at www.pattayacityexpatsclub.com.

Former speech and debate coach, member Doug Campbell was Pattaya City Expats Club guest speaker for the 24th of November. Doug’s topic was ‘Communication Breakdown - there is more to communication than meets the ear’.Former speech and debate coach, member Doug Campbell was Pattaya City Expats Club guest speaker for the 24th of November. Doug’s topic was ‘Communication Breakdown – there is more to communication than meets the ear’.

MC Richard Silverberg presented Doug with a Certificate of Appreciation for his very informative presentation.MC Richard Silverberg presented Doug with a Certificate of Appreciation for his very informative presentation.