How often has it been said that some people have selective hearing, selective memory, don’t read the whole email, or don’t get the point? Is it the message it fault, or perhaps the way it is written?
In 1997 a civil servant was disciplined for admitting that the government could use a big news story to their advantage – an ideal opportunity to release some bad news so it wouldn’t get any coverage. I’m sure it happens regularly, whether the news is smothered (as was the case here) or disguised with weasel words (as was the case in the rise in alcohol duty in the budget last week). Unless we are being particularly careful we can simply see or hear what the other person wants us to hear.
But there is a counterpoint: if we phrase the message badly then it can be lost. The two phrases
- I hear what you’re saying
- I see what you’re getting at
have almost identical meanings, but one will resonate more than the other. Some people prefer visual imagery, and others auditory. If we figure out what imagery the person we’re talking to prefers then we will often be perceived more favourably.
Likewise, some people are more inclined towards the written word, and these are the people who will be silently judging your grammar. Woe betide using it’s instead of its, or confusing your and you’re. If you can’t spell or punctuate then talk to these people rather than write to them!
But perception is rather more and we’re probably all guilty of getting it wrong sometimes – and maybe we should be more forgiving? Or would that be perceived as weakness?
A thought to leave you with: take this awareness test and judge for yourself.