muffled messages

I just finished a one-week class called “the Fundamentals of Supervision,” and I’d like to share one piece of information gleaned from it:

  • When you speak, your words actually only convey 70% of your intended message.
  • The person listening to your message only processes 50% of it.
  • So if you express 70% and your listener captures 50%…
  • That’s right: only 35% of what you want to get across actually gets across.

I must admit that I’m always somewhat skeptical of models that generalize the behavior of all mankind. I mean, I have to believe that you and I communicate more effectively than, say, Miss Teen South Carolina.

Andy also took some issue with the model when I explained it to him, but for a different reason. He offered another version: “When you tell me what you want me to do, you express 25% of what you think you do. I in turn interpret 125% of what you say.  Pretty impressive, if I do say so myself. But this unfortunately still results in only 30% of your message coming through, despite my best efforts.”

Whatever the specific percentages, the main point is a good one: none of us are getting across nearly as much as we think we are. And imagine how much less we get across when communicating across languages and cultures.

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