I saw that very funny sketch on TV the other day, where commedians Ronnie Barker and Ronnie Corbett acted out a communication mismatch scene that epitomises so effectively how so much business is conducted today. Put your speakers or headphones on, press the play button and enjoy again…
It shows all too readily how interpretation of a message can lead to poor understanding and a distortion of meaning. The shopkeeper automatically assumed he knew what the customer meant. It was only after four or five attempts at guessing what the customer meant that he actually undertook a very fundemantal form of communication clarification…that of asking specific, well-formed questions.
How many times have you been misunderstood by another person? Or should I ask, how many times A DAY have you been misunderstood? It’s easy to assume the other person has understood what you meant, until you find they have not done it as you asked. And they will always say, “But you said….” and then justify their actions according to their understanding of the meaning of the conversation.
What lessons can we learn from the sketch? That no matter what we think the meaning of the conversation is, there’s always a chance it will be misinterpreted or distorted.
As the saying goes, “I know you think you believe you understand what you thought I said, but I’m not sure that what you heard is not exactly what I meant”. We need to make sure the understanding is at the same level as the transmission. Easy? No. But worth the effort.
Did the customer know what he wanted to buy? Yes.
Did he communicate it in a way that was clear to HIM? Yes.
Could the shopkeeper have asked clarifying questions to confirm HIS understanding of what the customer meant? Yes.
Could the whole conversation have been carried out in half the time? Yes.
But it wouldn’t have been so funny, would it?
(Image by dan at FreeDigitalPhotos.Net)
Mark Williams is a learning and development professional, using business psychology and multiple intelligences to create fascinating and quickly-identifiable learning initiatives in the real-world business setting. Mark’s role at MTD is to ensure that our training is leading edge, and works closely with our trainers to develop the best learning experiences for all people on learning programmes. Mark designs and delivers training programmes for businesses both small and large and strives to ensure that MTD’s clients are receiving the very best training, support and services that will really make a difference to their business.