Ed Robertson discusses five commonly held misconceptions about communication in his article, The Five Myths of Managers.
Myth: Words contain meaning.
According to the author, “words are merely cues or triggers that elicit meaning.” The listener filters words through his or her own frames of reference created by his or her background and experiences to come up with his or her own meaning. Thus, the same word may have different meanings for different people. Managers should not assume that all employees automatically understand correctly the meaning of their statements. Soliciting feedback is necessary to determine the effectiveness of communication.
Myth: Communication and information are synonymous.
Robertson clarifies that information is merely “the raw product that is used in the communication process to create an output or result which is shared understanding and meaning.” The transmittal or dissemination of information in itself does not yet constitute communication until the information is processed and made meaningful to the receiver, producing a cognitive and/or emotional result determined by feedback. Without feedback, there is no communication.
Myth: Communication does not require much effort.
On the contrary, the author asserts that “to truly communicate one must make a commitment to invest time, energy, attention and, above all, let go of some ‘self’ in the interest of sharing understanding and meaning with another individual.”
Robertson reminds managers not to take for granted the method by which they communicate since “the act of communicating is communication” and can either make employees feel supported or unappreciated.
Myth: Communication is a product.
The author notes that many managers equate communication with communication products such as newsletters, magazines or videos. The result of this misconception is that these managers believe that once their desired message has been sent through any one of these products, it has been communicated. They should instead realize that communication is a process that they have to manage.
Myth: Good speakers are good communicators.
Again, the author points out that merely speaking does not yet constitute communication, and underlines the value of good listening skills. Robertson advises managers to “paraphrase in their own words what they hear employees saying and then ask if their interpretations are accurate.” This not only ensures better understanding but also strengthens the manager-employee relationship.
With these five myths “exposed,” managers will be better equipped to communicate more effectively.