HAVE you ever played Chinese whispers?
It’s a simple game, often used at a party to break the ice. It’s also a game we play to some degree on a day-to-day basis whether we realise it or not.
The game entails thinking of a sentence and whispering it into the ear of the person to your right, who then passes it on to the next person and so on.
Invariably the sentence then pronounced out loud by the last person in-line has very little, or anything, to do with the original sentence.
Poor audibility, personal inclination, interpretation and intonation are just some simple factors that can easily distort the original message.
“Don’t stop” doesn’t mean the same as “don’t, stop.”
Just one comma can pervert the meaning completely – don’t stop means keep going but with the comma it means don’t keep going.
Daily misunderstandings are as simple and can be as dangerous as that.
Similarly most of us now know that when you type in capital letters it means YOU’RE INTENTION IS TO SHOUT; if however the person who wrote in capitals is unaware of this, the meaning of the written document bears no intention other than the content; if the reader doesn’t consider the possibility that the person writing is ignorant of this fact, the interpretation of the message will be misunderstood, reading anger into a perfectly innocent message, with its subsequent connotations and consequences.
It’s part of life, something we cannot control, there are simply too many possible misinterpretations of the same truth.
Just last week I wrote an article ‘Make Up or Break Up,’ wanting to highlight how society and industry have put a burden on our young women to try and look like a non-existent ‘ideal,’ to such a degree that they no longer feel comfortable in their own skins.
But as it turned out, due to random events like the title being too short and amended to suit the space, (not the content of the column) combined with another gentleman adding a caption to the photo based on his personal interpretation of the article, based again on his own personal experience, the column took a 180º turn and in my opinion, came across as a warning to defenceless men about deceitful women out to entrap them.
I knew this couldn’t have been intentional but I was devastated that the published article couldn’t have been further from my truth – we’d gone from Venus to Mars in just four extra words.
I’d been Chinese whispered.
I found solace however in the reminder that communication is an art, that it’s human nature to judge information according to our own perceptions, experiences and beliefs, adding our personal interpretations.
Far too often we ‘know’ what other people are thinking and far too often we put words into their mouths.
In a city like Marbella with 127 nationalities where most people communicate in a language that is not their own it’s a miracle we manage as well as we do!
Communication is largely reliant on not jumping to conclusions, to giving people the benefit of the doubt and remembering that there are always two ends to a stick before we pass it on.