Nonverbal Communication

This is how messages are passed on, at the most basic level.

This is how messages are passed on, at the most basic level.

I have a problem. We all do, actually. The problem is that we read things and think we know exactly what the writer is saying. Sometimes we don’t. Here is a perfect example. Ray Bradbury wrote a book, intending to convey an idea: Television is dangerous. The students he was lecturing about this started arguing with him that the idea he was trying to convey was censorship. Let me restate that: He wrote a book with a message in mind, and the readers told him that he meant to say something else.

See, communication happens when one person sends a message (verbal, nonverbal, written, etc) and the other person receives that message. The person receiving the message has to pull out his mental “Secret Decoder Ring” and figure out what the other person is trying to communicate. This is a complicated process that I’m not going to cover in detail. Suffice it to say that person A sends a message, and person B has to decipher the message. Approximately 93% of communication is nonverbal. That means that when you are talking face to face with someone, you are able to receive 100% of their message (you might not receive it all, but the information is there). When you are reading something written down (like this blog, for instance), you are actually missing 93% of my message. That leaves a huge amount of information missing.

93% of the Gettysburg Address, “Four … on … dedicated. Now … whether … dedicated, … battle-field … portion … those … live. … do… dedicate … ground. … have … or … what … they … to … who … is … great … we … gave … highly … vain … of … people, … earth.”

This is a legitimate problem, because more and more in our information age, communication takes place by text. We text each other on our phones. We send instant messages. We post to Facebook. We tweet. We write and read blog posts and opinion pieces. The potential for miscommunication is staggering.

Case-in-point (identifying information removed): There’s a guy that I’m related to by marriage who has only ever talked to me on Facebook. We have seen each other in real life, but have never spoken. And we have had two conversations in the past four years. Both of them ended badly. I’d like to think I said nothing offensive, but I’m positive that he took offense at things I said, because he told me so. Last night was our second conversation, and he said, “Ah, Steve, you are so right. I just wish I could have the clarity you do”. I replied, “Was that sarcasm or are you serious?” And he said, “You really are as pompous as I thought! Just. Wow.”

Now was I assuming that he actually thought I was a much clearer thinker than he? Absolutely not. I was trying to give him the benefit of the doubt by asking him if he really meant to be sarcastic/rude when we were trying to have a conversation. But he WAS being sarcastic, so he took offense at what I said.

Most people receive my message and assume the best. If I say something that could have more than one meaning, they assume I meant the one that was NOT offensive. This guy read everything I said to him and assumed I was being offensive, so to him I was.

I ended the conversation by stating, “I have never had anyone misunderstand my messages more than you do. Every interaction we have ever had has been on Facebook, even though we have seen each other in real life. Given the level of misunderstanding that we both have experienced, I am letting you know with this message that I will no longer respond to anything you say on Facebook: comments or private messages. This goes for your wife … as well. If either of you want to talk to me about something, it will have to be either face to face, or you are always welcome to call me directly. My phone number is … This is my final text message to you. May God bless you (and your family) in all that you do for Him.”

Because sometimes you just can’t talk to people online. Too much message is missing.


About Steve Picray

I am a conservative Baptist Pastor in the midwestern United States. Every day I commit my life to Jesus Christ. This blog is my view on life. My prayer is that, by reading what I write, you will learn more about me, more about God, and be assisted in becoming the person God means for you to be. If you have a question, just e-mail me at spicray AT gmail DOT com. God Bless!
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