Thursday, August 14, 2008

What Is That You Are Tapping?

Do you think that your point is getting across? Communication is much more difficult that we think it is or should be - like trying to throw a baseball to someone in a thick fog, all the while you think it is only a cloudy day.

In a nice article from Janet Rae-Dupree titled "Innovative Minds Don't Think Alike," she has this paragraph:

Elizabeth Newton, a psychologist, conducted an experiment on the curse of knowledge while working on her doctorate at Stanford in 1990. She gave one set of people, called “tappers,” a list of commonly known songs from which to choose. Their task was to rap their knuckles on a tabletop to the rhythm of the chosen tune as they thought about it in their heads. A second set of people, called “listeners,” were asked to name the songs.
Before the experiment began, the tappers were asked how often they believed that the listeners would name the songs correctly. On average, tappers expected listeners to get it right about half the time. In the end, however, listeners guessed only 3 of 120 songs tapped out, or 2.5 percent.
The tappers were astounded. The song was so clear in their minds; how could the listeners not “hear” it in their taps?

I am a professional speaker, so this catches my attention like a wild cat high on catnip being thrown in my face. But it should be relevant to anyone that has to communicate at all - teachers, business people, stay at home moms, people in any kind of relationship, etc.

I know what I am trying to communicate, but what I see in my mind has connections, both conscious and unconscious, to my life experiences and thoughts in a complex web. When I am brave enough to ask for feedback from people in the audience, what they heard connected in some way to an experience or thought that they had. It may go in the same general direction that I was thinking, but it may not. Which is ok. For my own purpose, getting people to think and ask questions is better than getting people to agree with me.

In future posts we will explore ways to make communication clearer, but in the meantime a healthy dose of realism about communication can keep your feelings from getting hurt and assumptions realigned.

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