Today on Freaky Friday: How to use the dark side of communication theory*

Ok folks, last week we talked about using language and dialect to sabotage your project. This week we will take all this a step further. If you think that theories are boring you may want to stop reading now. But I guarantee that it will be valuable information…

We communicate all the time. Paul Watzlawick once stated “You can not not communicate.” So if we interact with people even saying nothing is a kind of communication – the ignorance of the counterpart also sends a message. If we think about our projects, we communicate all the time. In ecom projects we usually have tons of people to talk to, all with different background and language. Unfortunately only few people know how communication really works and why it fails in lots of cases, even if you are sure that you speak the same language and dialect. And just to think in guerrilla ways: only if you know communication theory you have the power to use it’s dark side…

The basic model of communication says that we have a sender and a receiver. In between them disturbances can happen. And they do all the time. But this model is very limited and does not explain a lot. Some disturbances are quite  easy to explain, other are harder. Noise, language and dialect are simple disturbances. But if they are excluded, how do misunderstanding happen?

To get a grip on how communication really works I will try to explain it with the model of Schulz von Thun.

In this model we talk about four channels in which communication takes place. These channels are information, appeal, self-revelation and relationship. To take a simple example: A man siting on the sofa says to his wife “My beer is empty.” Pretty clear to you? But what is the message? Is there one?

Let’s analyse this with the four channels theory:

The information – this is the fact part of the message. Dry simple facts. The beer is empty. That’s it.

The appeal – a lot of messages have an appeal inside them. In this message the appeal could be: woman, get me a new beer from the kitchen (now!).

The self-revelation – this is what the message reveals about the sender. In this case it could be something like: I’m too lazy to get up and get a new beer from the fridge.

The relationship – most messages also describe the relationship between sender and receiver. In this situation here obviously the man can say something like that. But it’s interesting here, what happens after the sentence is said. If the wife walks to the kitchen to get a beer, walks to the kitchen to get a knife or simply shout at him, shows the real relationship. But a tendency can be seen in the message.

On each of these channels the sender is sending (unconsciously) and also the receiver is receiving (also unconsciously). Depending on the type of personality persons have combinations of the channels, but usually one of them is the dominant one. And now think for yourself…

Right! If the persons channels are more or less the same to some extent, they will communicate without problems. But if they are not – problems are likely to come along. Take another example: One person says to another: “The numbers for this month are good”. The sender is an information type, the receiver an appeal type. What happens here is that the sender simply wanted to point out, that the numbers are good. Fine for him, well done. But the receiver hears only a “good” instead of a “perfect”. Since he takes the message as an appeal, he will run off and make extra hours to push the numbers to perfect. Simple sentence – simple misunderstanding.

For you as project guerilla that means to first recognise the channel types of the people around you. And then you can put people or whole teams together that are incompatible. As a tip: information types go very well with appeal types. That will have an impact on the misunderstanding rate in your project.

If you are already on the master level, you may be able to control your main sending channel. This way you can always  select the channel that your communication partner is incompatible with. Perfect here: you can always say, that you gave the right info in first place. What you did – but only using the dark side and the wrong channel…

Come back next week to read about how meetings can help you in slowing your project (isn’t it obvious?)!

* Legal disclaimer: What you read here may cause havoc to your project, when applied. Neither nor the author will take any responsibility for the effects. So read carefully. You are responsible for any action you take after reading!

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