Mind That Gap

Creative Commons Flickr Deetrex

I love writing. I enjoy words and I (usually) relish the process of committing a piece to paper. Er, well, Internet. But I find that no matter how carefully you say something, you always run the risk of the communication being miscommunicated.

This is part and parcel of human nature, yes? We all think we are being perfectly amazing clear when we write or speak to someone. Surely everything we say or offer will be taken in in the manner we wish it to be taken.

But obviously, that’s not the case. I love this model called the Interpersonal Gap, which nicely lays out where the problems can occur in the encoding and decoding of message. The site gives great tips too, tips I learned in school (these very tips actually) to support the encoding and decoding of messages.

While the model and tips seem simple they are hard to do in the heat of a moment. Managing conflict and communication gaps takes patience and a willingness to slow down. And it takes all your senses to decode the messaging.

It’s exceptionally harder to do this online, I’ve found. Things move fast, and there is so much missing from a conversation. Visual communication can be estimated up to 93% of the information we receive in an interaction. No wonder online flame wars break out! Emoticons don’t do much good for shades and gradations of feeling.

People, I feel pretty certain, want one thing most of all; to be seen and heard and understood. That might be three things, but I’m using it as one ;).

It is one of the most profoundly frustrating moments when you feel misunderstood, your intent noble, your offering, kind. And to realize that someone is frustrated with you? Well that’s no fun either.

I’m nearly to a point of going radically offline with any work I do in advocacy because I find the loss of my sight and hearing (I have a very good ear for tone and was a musician for a long time. I “hear” when I hear) online to be such an interpersonal disability. Empathy comes from information, and it takes a very different kind of communication online to get to empathy.

(and I was struck by the photo caption on Flickr “Blind Climber Crosses Cravasse. Interesting.)

Speaking of, here is a post I’ve written for Good Men Project on what it might be like to be a man. Spoiler alert-I don’t know what it might be like to be a man, but I do know that all of us want desperately to be understood.

I want to crack the nut, here, of getting finding out how to work with interpersonal gaps online as well as off. I’ve had no shortage of opportunities lately, though I will say I’ve felt a bit of a failure lately. Or, if not a failure, then certainly hobbled by my own limits, blind and deaf perhaps to the messages coming my way, sending messages back out with no awareness of how they are landing.

Still, it’s what I do and I don’t suspect I’ll be able to stop anytime soon. Mostly, because I have a weird kind of hope that just like the climber in the photo above, there will be others who will help me learn.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Mind That Gap

  1. humbition

    I don’t much feel like participating in the particular commenting culture of the Good Man Project. But I very much appreciate your participation there, your honesty, your putting it out there. I think dialogue is our only way out.

  2. There’s certainly and interpersonal gap online, especially when you’re blogging about topics that are either polarizing, or so juicy that everyone wants put their two cents in. Usually you end up with a bunch of people talking at each other, giving little regard to what the initial person said. Notice in my own article on the good man project, I posted one reply, and then I just stepped away from the conversation and let people blow hot air at each other.

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