Hey there good looking people of the Americorps world,

Mean what I say


There is an issue that I have found interesting since I first discovered it in one of my communication classes at Grand Valley State University. It was a realization. And the beginning of one of my disagreements with the world. It has come up twice recently with different people. So it is on my mind again.

The textbook was saying that in any communication that there is an Intended message from the person creating the message (by talking, writing, making a movie, etc) and there is a Perceived message that the listener/viewer receives. And the shattering moment for me, they aren't always the same. I know it seems pretty obvious now, but i was young, right? Psychologically, I think I have a strong desire to be understood, so this revelation was kind of sad to me.

Both the text and my teacher seemed to be saying that the Perceived message of the receiver WAS the message. They said that was the important component. I disagreed. My argument was and is that the Indented message IS the REAL message, if the Perceived message differs from the Intended one then the perception is incorrect.

That doesn't mean I blame the receiver of the message for getting it wrong. Many messages are poorly communicated. Or translated. During the Cold War Nikita Khrushchev was quoted in the west as saying, "We will bury you." What he was saying in the context of his culture and society was, "We will out last you." But in the west the implications of the word 'bury', made it seem like a threatening statement.

No one can blame the already scared masses for the misunderstanding. Yet, the message that Mr. Khrushchev intended is still THE actual message in my book, even if the whole world misunderstood.

Comment from Mike Moore on February 20, 2007 - 7:56pm

The only way to determine whether or not
anyone can be trusted is by trusting them.

At some point that means letting one's guard
down and letting them in.

On the other hand, just because the invitation
has been extended and the door of opportunity
left open - doesn't mean there will be a rush
through the entrance.

We can all try to be trustworthy, worthy of
love, worthy of kindness, thoughtfulness,
consideration. It's not enough to try to
BE the right person. And in truth, maybe
there's no such animal.

We can only be ourselves in the process
making ourselves happy - exercising selfishness
in the most self affirming way.

Gandhi said, "Be the change you want to see
in the world."

Not as much about being someone worth loving as
much as loving and forgiving ourselves and granting
permission to be ourselves - without apologies.

A fireman I once knew had on his whiteboard the
comment, "If a dog could speak, we might be so
surprized by the fact that we might not notice
he had nothing to say."

We all have something to say - something worthwhile
to say.

Our very existence grants us meaning, and purpose,
and value.

When we understand that about ourselves, we are on
the path to understanding that about others, and
from that understanding comes the birth of better
communication, better coexistence, ultimately a
better world.


P.S. Just in case the point got lost, I liked what
you had to say. It got me thinking.

Comment from danielle martin on February 21, 2007 - 12:48am

Hey Rich,

Are these misunderstood communications related to your VISTA work or just life in general? I just ask because I think it might be an interesting topic for to be UNDERSTOOD as a VISTA (versus as just a regular ol' staff or member).


Comment from Ben Sheldon on February 21, 2007 - 1:44pm

The thought experiment I had in Social Psychology (or was it the Psychology of Sociology?) was:

If you are interacting with someone who truly dislikes you, but does a perfect job of concealing this from you, does it matter how they truly feel?

The answer was Nope.

People communicate to create specific external change or affect action. In order to achieve the desired action, you must make sure that your message is received properly. In the example of Kruschev, the issue is not within the message itself, but in the communicator (Kruschev) not being aware of the language/cultural differences of his audience. Because of this, the resulting action was not the intended one.

For effective communication, once you've identified that you have something you want to happen, the very first thing you must do is identify your audience (which means anything from their needs to their lifestyle to their current emotional state) and from that design your message so that the resulting action is what you intended.

If you think of communication as resulting in intended action, in some cases, being clear, concise or honest is not optimal. For example, in some situations you are culturally expected to be dishonest (when negotiating you must overstate or understate your position), verbose (poetry or prose) or ambiguous (when dumping someone).

Of course, I do agree that many of these situations would be made easier if everyone was clear, concise and honest. But if you think of this as an outcome, being clear, concise and honest in those situations might be not produce the intended action of getting everyone to be clear concise or honest, or even the secondary goals: getting a good deal, being published or avoiding emotional distress and physical violence.

Also, when working with children, or anyone really, it's not about leading them to water, it's about making them thirsty.

Comment from Mike Moore on February 21, 2007 - 3:09pm

Based on your explanation, isn't that
fundamentally about leadership?

Communication is also the sharing of information
and nothing more.

If I tell you the sky is blue and that's what
you hear and confirm in your reply - that's
communication no more, no less, message sent,
message received, message confirmed.

"If you are interacting with someone who truly dislikes you,
but does a perfect job of concealing this from you, does it
matter how they truly feel?"

It may matter, to you, simply because, from your premise,
you don't know that they "truly dislike you" because they're
doing a perfect job of concealing that from you.

You may think they care, when in fact they don't and you
don't know that.

Ties in to what I said about trusting people. One can
lose sleep, time and effort looking for a litmus test
for trust.

Comparably, legally speaking (and perhaps socially as well),
example, Miranda Rights. As long as it has been demonstrated
that an individual has been read their rights using methods
reasonably determined to be adequate, should they deny
understanding becomes an arguable point. Likewise, if we
act in good faith in our communication, in what can
reasonably be described as clear, honest and direct, from
that perspective, the duplicitousness or dishonesty of the
person we are speaking to is their responsibility. Beyond
that, it's a matter of to what extent their duplicitousness
or dishonesty impacts our lives or goals. The more remote
the impact, the less, it would seem, the necessity for care
or concern. If on the other hand, we are being held
accountable for collaborative results of which they are an
integral part of the potential success or failure - that's
an entirely different matter.

If you choose not to reply, that's communication
too - of a different sort.

"Making someone thirsty" isn't just about
communication, it's about provoking action.

Comment from Richard T. Anderson on February 21, 2007 - 5:20pm

1. I love Social Psychology!

2. I don't think all communication is goal driven. I try not to be manipulative in my communications. Though certainly there is a time and place for that.

3. Back to Mike's comment about making the world we want. I want a world where everyone is clear, concise, and honest. All the games and drama, I can do without.

4. you are right, one needs to insight thirstiness when teaching. Any ideas?

5. Danielle, while I posted the blog here as it relates to communication, the reasons behind it where personal rather than professional. Still it is a good topic for those that are having trouble as VISTA's.



On-line Collaboration Software


At the CTC Conference Call last Friday, I was asked to do a brief presentation on web-conferencing tools. Naturally, a presentation about web-conferencing tools deserves a presentation given on a web-conferencing tools, especially since the call consists of people literally all over the US. Therefore, I set up an account on Vyew, and gave my presentation there. You can still view the presentation (and its mishaps) if you go to Room 313064.

I chose Vyew primarily because it's free and doesn't require any downloads (other than a Flash plug-in for your browser). We also didn't require VOIP or any other fancy features. It worked relatively well, for our purposes. The call was part presentation, part experimentation. Everyone was able to see the presentation, and seemed to have a good time exploring the features, especially the whiteboard. This was somewhat problematic, in that I allowed everyone the ability to modify the presentation, which can be a bit distracting when the slide you're talking about disappears. At one point, I had to reload my powerpoint slide, so if you visit room on Vyew, you will see a very disjointed set of slides. When I was done, the other VISTAs on the call had a good time with the whiteboard feature.

I also attached is my original powerpoint slides, as well as my Excel file which contains a comparison of several web-conferencing tools, including a side-by-side comparison of their features and price.<

Comment from danielle martin on December 12, 2006 - 9:22pm

Hi Tim,

Can you post the files here on your blog?

I wish I had this a week ago. My presentation last Tuesday using WebEx failed completely, because I did a Windows Update and they didn't support the Windows Media Player 11 I needed to show my videos. Then when I tied to uninstall it and restart the session, it totally lost the whole event. Not fun. Did you find any tips in your research on best practices/techniques for presenting using this software vs. doing it in person?


Comment from Tim Wescott on December 13, 2006 - 2:29pm

Hmmm. I know I uploaded them. I'll try again.

EDIT: Looks like I succeeded this time.