Be Clear in Communication

6 May

As my wife and I are dragging through life, we made time to get out of bed and watch our good friend, Dr. Know’s, wedding. We wish we could have been there, but knowing that is unrealistic, his effort to give us a front-row seat was very much appreciated. And while the lengthy wedding was enjoyable for us, there was a stretch where the speaker was speaking in the native Filipino language (Kelly tells me it is called Tagalog).

While I’m sure that everything he said was incredibly well-thought out and well worded, Kelly and I didn’t appreciate it very much, as we didn’t understand the language. Shocking to everyone, I’m sure, is that a message that can’t be understood is not nearly as valuable as a message that can be understood. Before this denigrates into some weird argument about something else, let me state my thesis.

We need to make sure to communicate what we actually want to, and I think often we fail. The day before yesterday, I was with a friend and we were driving to meet another friend. The friend we were driving to meet has a bumper sticker on his car that I always find too cryptic to read. In fact, it has been so cryptic to me for so long that I asked what it said and what that meant. Our friend informed us that it said “Salt Life” and referred to how we, as Christians, are to be Salt in the World.

The friend that I was with and I drove off and began talking about it. He is not a Christian and told me that he thought that was a rather weird sentiment. Further, he stated that when he had previously seen it, he thought it was an obscenity. I must confess I had possessed a similar sentiment and that is clearly not the message the authors of this Christian bumper sticker wanted to send. I am, in fact, familiar with the verse that states the salt analogy, but I had to agree with his base feeling. A message that is so cryptic that it takes two or three levels of explanation is not really a message at all other than stating that this group is so weird they cannot communicate very well.

My second thought was of the ΙΧΘΥΣ, which was a symbol used in early church to communicate a message to each other without the government knowing. Of course, this new symbol falls short of this hope, as I had no idea that was what it was supposed to mean. I’d venture to say that even 2000 years later, more people know what the ΙΧΘΥΣ means than this new-fangled bumper sticker. Further, as I began talking to other friends about it, I learned that none of them had the same interpretation of the sticker as my friend who wanted us to take it as a testimony.

I did a little research on the internet and found a site that defines it (though it does so with some vulgarity). So, it turns out that my friend was incorrect in his use of it. Although, I feel that furthers my point. These beach bums who established this as a code have created a code that no one knows what it is (and at least two of the people I asked about it would meet the definition).

If you are going to establish a code, you need to determine your target audience. If your target is for propagating your message, you need to make sure that those outside the group know. If the target is internal, it needs to at least be obvious to them. A message given to millions that is not understood is a message ultimately given to no one. And as someone who staved off sleep to watch most of a wedding, an understood message is much more appreciated!

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3 Responses to “Be Clear in Communication”

  1. Anonymous May 6, 2012 at 8:56 pm #

    If guns don't kill people, people kill people. Does that mean toasters don't toast toast, toast toast toast?

    Just messin with you Matt. I agree with some of what you said but not others.

  2. AskThePhatMan May 6, 2012 at 9:32 pm #

    Chris Bloomdahl?

  3. Jenni April 28, 2013 at 10:09 pm #

    Perception is reality… even though it isn't. I could have lots of deep conversations about this. 🙂

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