Do you remember the game where a message is whispered to one person who then whispers it to another and on down the line until it comes to the last person? I learned that game with the name telephone. Today, it would probably be called “chat room.” Anyway, more often than not the message which was reported by the last person bore little or no resemblance to the message whispered to the first person. The reason: when information is passed from one person to another there is nearly always a communication breakdown.
That game makes you wonder what communication is all about. Simply stated, communication is one person putting forth an idea and another person understanding it. Edward R. Murrow, the subject of the current film, “Good Night and Good Luck,” correctly observed that communication doesn’t depend on the means one uses to communicate. He said, “The newest computer can merely compound, at speed, the oldest problem in the relations between human beings, and in the end the communicator will be confronted with the old problem, of what to say and how to say it.”
It is very important for each of us to make sure we listen to others’ ideas, but it is equally important to make sure those we are communicating with actually hear what we’re saying. In teaching jargon it’s called checking for understanding, but each of has to be aware of whether our message is getting through. Otherwise, we’ll be sending our thoughts into a giant telephone game and we won’t recognize what comes out on the other end.