Monday, June 24, 2019: “A Strategic Insight” Completed Communication is an Illusion. George Bernard Shaw was an Irish playwright who lived from 1856 through 1950. Among his most insightful quotes is this: “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”
It is an illusion because communication is at least a three-way proposition. (1) Something is communicated. (2) Then the words, meaning, and intent of the “something” that is communicated are received. (3) The reaction or response of the receiver indicates that she/he understands the “something” that was communicated in the way the sender meant for it to be heard for an appropriate response or action to take place.
Many communication actions by congregations are incomplete or create an illusion that clear. Completed communication takes place. That does not mean congregations, their staff, and their preacher/proclaimer are not speaking, writing, posting, showing a lot of information. It is that clear, completed communication may not happen near as often as the sender believes it has.
The 21st century presents so many challenges for communication. First, there are so many channels. Is it printed, oral or audio, digital, or visual? Is it face-to-face, by mail, by e-mail, by text, or through social media? If by social media, which platform? Second, people are not consistent in terms of the channels they check. Some people will still never see a piece of communication unless it comes by mail. Others never read a book or magazine.
Third, the volume of information being communicated seems to increase geometrically while the time to receive communication is the same 24 hours per day. Therefore, it is essential that people tune out 99 percent of the communications sent to them so they can retain some sense of sanity.
Amid this cacophony of communication, it is no wonder congregations suffer from the illusion that communication has taken place.