That’s Not What I Meant

Aakriti Joanna

Published on


“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” – George Bernard Shaw

For those who misunderstand communication with language: Language is merely a mode of communication, now try to imagine a world without communication. We would be living in the most notorious, most obnoxious and the most gruesome and lifeless place in this Universe. Emotionless and feelingless people walking around like zombies would be the initial noticeable change without communication, because communication is the only way we express ourselves. Crime rates soaring to unimaginable rate would be the next obvious change, because even with the existence of phrases like ‘I’m sorry’, ‘it was my mistake’, ‘I apologize’, ‘forgive me’ and much more, abuse and unforgiveness is thriving.

Communication is the most predominant quality an individual must acquire and possess, but miscommunication has overruled. How efficient and accurate are we in communicating our feelings, emotions, ideas, observations, insights, experiences, etc.? and how effective and precise are we in understanding what has been communicated? Relationships are breaking because of miscommunication, recognition and reputation is at stake because of miscommunication, opportunities and breakthroughs are crushed because of miscommunication, and families are disoriented because of miscommunication. Ambiguity and lack of clarity in our communication is spoiling the broth for us. So how do we communicate better?

Dr. Jacob Cherian, my professor and mentor once said that there are two A.I.Ms an individual has to consider when communicating, they are: ‘Author’s Intended Meaning’ and ‘Audience’s Induced Meaning’.

  1. Author’s Intended Meaning: There are two perspectives to ‘Author’s Intended Meaning’
  • The Sender Perspective: As a sender of the information an individual has to maintain only one intended meaning. The sender’s intended meaning should be the only meaning. Refrain from pun and sarcasm if you’re not good at it, because these are things that will turn offensive if not delivered properly. Your vocabulary is very important so keep updating and get comfortable with your vocabulary. Don’t be tempted to use new words without understanding it’s meaning and the context in which it can be used. Most importantly understand your audience. It would be a total waste to speak computer to a farmer, understand what your audience (could be anyone) speak and then communicate.
  • The Receiver Perspective: A good communication is a shared responsibility of both the sender and the receiver. Retaining the author’s intended meaning is the responsibility of the receiver. Assumption is the worst enemy of ‘Author’s Intended Meaning’, and assumption is the easiest hence has become the most common component in a communication. To retain the ‘Author’s Intended meaning’, first and foremost, a receiver has to listen. Undivided attention to the sender is a must and the receiver cannot afford to neglect or overlook this initial aspect of receiving. Vocabulary is important for a receiver as much it is important for a sender, hence never fail to update your vocabulary. Listen to more than just words, gesture is the value added tax of communication: you just can’t ignore them.
  1. Audience’s Induced Meaning: I have two important things to say.
  • Don’t Let It Happen: As an author don’t give a chance for your audience to induce an unintended meaning.
  • Don’t Do It: As an audience don’t induce any unintended meaning to what has been communicated.

For communication to take place there has to be the sender and the receiver. Both the sender and the receiver have to be updated, interested, precise and fervent only then can good communication happen. Communication or miscommunication, the repercussions will be manifold, impacting, and influential hence choose wisely.