The sublime art of miscommunication

Or ‘how not to communicate’.

In the last week or so I have both watched and received some bungled efforts at communication.  I will be charitable and consider them as bungled because the alternative – deliberate and considered activity – would be disappointing.  I think we can all learn by others’ mistakes, so what went wrong?

  • THE AMBUSH: a committee member dropped an unexpected bombshell. Some other members of the committee had foreknowledge, but the chair was surprised.  The committee should have been a place of collaboration, and whilst I feel sure that there are times when the ambush tactic is useful or expected (politics, law courts), its use is hugely divisive.  On this occasion the member should have shared his subject matter with the chair beforehand and run the risk of getting support! Continue reading

The truth, the whole truth, and what the press reports

A friend of a friend has recently been quoted in the popular press.  Nothing too spectacular there, except that on this occasion she said something she probably shouldn’t have said.  It wasn’t necessarily untrue, but it had an explosive quality which made it particularly interesting to the newshounds – and was reported with a (possibly deliberately misleading) lack of context which made for an incendiary reception elsewhere.

And therein lies the nature of truth.  In court we are asked to deliver the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. But when we are quoted for effect what has happened? If we told the truth (probably), the whole truth (unlikely), and nothing but the truth then what will be reported? The truth (maybe), the whole truth (almost certainly not, context rarely sells), and nothing but the truth (I think not).

History is littered with examples of people who have said something true but unpalatable, and all to often it is the messenger who is called to account – perhaps first observed by Sophocles as “No one loves the messenger who brings bad news”.

I don’t know whether the unintentional flames will be doused with apology, or fed with a scapegoat. But I do know that I really should learn from another’s misfortune and figure out the politician’s art of using lots of words to say nothing, especially in circumstances where I don’t want a Pyrrhic victory.