Friday, June 18, 2010

Chirp, chirp, squack!

Humans are social creatures. We are communicators by nature, signaling to each out our wants, needs, desires and affection with words, lingering glances, soft touches, and so much more. We are capable of conveying so much with each other.

We are also marvelously capable of miscommunication.
It's enough to make you wonder if any other animals can truly mess things up on the scale that humans can. After all, how many birds in the rain forest, screeching a warning about a snake, are actually calling out that a leopard is about to pounce?

Yet we can manage to say something, have it mean one thing, and have it interpreted as something completely different quite well.

I marvel at those who are capable of making themselves perfectly understood all the time. Because I have been married twelve years, and we lived together two years before that, and we still have miscommunications rearing their ugly heads from time to time. And we understand either other normally.
Perfect strangers? I gave up a long time ago on trying to have completely synchronous conversations. They can take what they want from the conversation.

I've learned from years of working with the public, that human communication is less about the words you use, and more about what the other person wants to think that you said. If someone is spoiling for a fight, they will twist anything you say, regardless of tone, word choice, body language, etc. Likewise, if someone wants to read something sexual into your words, they will.

One of the authors at the Erotica Readers and Writers Association, a guest to the blog a few weeks back – Mike Kimera, had a tagline on his emails that has always stuck with me. It said: "What you read is not what I wrote. I supply the text, you supply the meaning."

To me, truly effective communication is having the person I am talking to on the same page enough that their interpretation of my words matches my meaning when I said them.

Beyond that … it's all a matter of did they warn you about a snake? Or a leopard? Me, I'm gonna look around for both, cause who the heck knows which one they meant.


  1. I've always like Mike's tag line too.

    While it's nice to have a reader on the same page (heh) as you, I like to hear reader's take on things. Sometime it's quite different from what I imagined, but it's still wonderful. Other times I'll wonder how bad their reading skills are.

  2. What you say about people reading into your words is true. People tend to see what they want.

    A liberal, when i listen to Fox News I hear hard core right wing propaganda. When my Uncle Tony, a conservative, hears Fox News he hears fairness and balance. Weird.


  3. Hello, Michelle,

    Insightful post, and a great photo, too!

    I find that miscommunications can provide fruitful starting points for stories. I just submitted a tale in which a young woman doesn't really understand that her new master views her as something more than just his slut. He never says anything more, in words, and she's predisposed to believe he's just toying with her, because she thinks he's still in love with his old flame. The slip in communication almost drives them apart (but since this is erotic romance, of course it doesn't...;^) )


  4. Kathleen -- I can definitly agree with that. Some of the reviews that have come out, I look at and wonder just whose book they were reading, cause it didn't sound like mine.

    Garce -- Yeah, it is amazing how the news can be differently interpretted. Me, I just wonder what happened to them covering things beyond doom and gloom. I like the occasional "hero" or "feel good" news piece. But those are few and far between.

    Lisabet -- It can certainly be fun to set up the characters interpreting things differently. I wrote one of my shifter stories set as a "get back together" story set after a big miscommunication.

  5. Hi Michelle,

    Sorry I'm late in getting here this week.

    I love your point about miscommunication. When I was studying I was given the following cool example of the dangers of miscommunication.

    A lecturer was delivering a speech on grammar. "In conclusion," he said, "we can see that, whilst a double negative can usually be interpreted as a negative, there is never such confusion with a double positive."

    A student from the back said, "Yeah, yeah."



  6. Ash -- I see your double and raise you a triple.

    "Well I aint never not gonna do it." Yeah ... top that!

    *snicker* I actually heard a quadruple, but it was so damn convoluted that I don't remember it.


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