The “Problem” of Communication

In our reading this week, Peters claims that we have a narrow and limited way of thinking about communication. We dream of perfect, ideal communication (as if we’re striving for telepathy); we get frustrated when we miscommunicate; we blame communication as the “problem;” and then we often stop communicating altogether (“solipsism”) or we just keep getting frustrated. But Peters argues that the “problem” of communication is not that communication fails and not that we miscommunicate; the problem is the way we think about communication.

Here are a few examples that demonstrate the way Peters says we usually think and talk about communication (and remember, he wants to challenge these limited views of communication).

From “General Information about Communication Problems”

“Almost all conflicts involve communication problems, as both a cause and an effect. Misunderstandings, resulting from poor communication, can easily cause a conflict or make it worse. Further, once a conflict has started, communication problems often develop because people in conflict do not communicate with each other as frequently, as openly, and as accurately as they do when relationships are not strained.”

This excerpt once again represents a “Transmission Model” or “standard view of communication” that believes we just need to learn to communicate more effectively–to use the tool of communication better. And it suggests that more communication, more honesty (truth), and more clarity will somehow fix communication.

From “Solutions to Your Top Two Communication Problems” by Dr. Brenda Shoshanna

Without effective communication, no relationship stands a chance. … When we are fighting, we want more than ever to be understood and words go flying back and forth like arrows.

[C]ommunication consists not only of talking, but also listening and hearing what is being said. … it is crucial to realize that each person can only truly “hear” what is being said if they are willing to put aside their own point of view and really be available to know the heart and mind of the other.

These excerpts give an example of how we act as if we truly could create some direct link between our minds. We desire to be understood perfectly (telepathy).

From High School Musical 2, “You are the Music in Me”

I admit: I’m a HSM fan. … but to the point. Many love songs about “connecting” and finding true love also shape and reveal the way we think about communication.

It’s like I knew you before we met (Before we met)
Can’t explain it (Ohh ohh)
There’s no name for it (No name for it)

I’m saying words I never said

And it was easy (So easy)
Because you see the real me (I see)
As I am

You understand
And that’s more than I’ve ever known

To hear your voice (Hear your voice)
Above the noise (Ohh ohh)

And no, I’m not alone

Their voices cut through the “noise” and they connect in a way where they understand each other perfectly … Gabriella sees the “real Troy,” as if communication was able to merge their souls.


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