Focus on the Receiver

Perspectives vary, & good communications start with this as the premise

By David Magnusson  |   Jan 31, 2018

No, this isn’t a manual for quarterback prospects. Besides, I kicked in high school—what do I know about passing? This article is about communications and the message the sender is trying to convey to the receiver. You may have heard some of this before, but it’s worth repeating. In fact, I have a perfect lesson that was based on my last article.

Missing the Message

I spoke in metaphors when I explained that by never taking a chance to “throw the right” (taking chances to get ahead; leaving your comfort zone) you will remain mediocre. You can’t stand out if you “jab” the “fight” away.  I thought the images I put out were easy to understand and my point would be made.

In the comments section I was taken to task by a reader who thought it was a bad idea to teach boxing. The reader thought I was suggesting that I proposed using boxing when out on the street if involved in a fight. The reader thought I was giving boxing lessons. I was not. But that’s what the reader believed.

I communicated with this commenter to better explain my position. I was open to explaining myself. I thought it was that important to do so. But suppose this particular reader was the only one to respond in writing though many others may have felt the same thing: Was my communication flawed in the article I wrote? Did many others think my article was about the “sweet science”?

What’s Good Communication?

To start, let’s look at the three kinds of communication.  There is the verbal (spoken, where the meaning is heard), nonverbal (inferred), and written (where the meaning is read). In my writings, my goal is to motivate or solve problems. I want to teach something and in turn foster sound debate for those who may disagree. But before any of that can happen, I must convey a message that is understood.  It’s always up to the author or speaker to convey a message that the listener can understand.

Differences in perception and viewpoint are a barrier to effective communication. And yet, particularly in writing, whether in an article like this or issuing directives via e-mail, you can’t immediately see the nonverbal communication of the message receiver, such as body language, eye contact, or other gestures. In verbal communications, if you’re astute to those nonverbal cues, you can quickly get your message back on track. It is not quite as easy with the written message.  That may have been the issue with my previous article, at least for one reader.

So Where Do We Go From Here?

Writings should have three main tenets that are non-negotiable.

  1. Clarity
  2. Empathy/respect
  3. Open-mindedness

Before writing a message ask yourself some questions. What point are you trying to make?  What message is conveyed as a result of that point? What is the receiver hearing? If I write, for instance, “I’m hungry.  Let’s eat, Grandma” that would have a far different meaning than if I write “I’m hungry. Let’s eat Grandma.”  One comma turns me from a hungry young man to a cannibal.  Surely, context needs to be factored in.  But it is up to me (the author) to remove any doubt in the written communication I am attempting to get across.

Allowing for feedback is the most important step in effective communications.  How does that work in the written realm?  To start, it’s far easier to speak up (if so inclined) than it is to write a question or response back to the message sender. Feedback means that I, the message sender, need to listen. I will point out that l-i-s-t-e-n and s-i-l-e-n-t use the same letters.  Allowing for feedback makes now makes me the message receiver. The “back and forth” can go on for some time but if, in the end, the message is crystal clear and squared away, then it was all worth it.

I hope I communicated this point well.

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David Magnusson

David Magnusson

Magnusson is the chief of police for the Village of El Portal Police department. Prior to this, he was police chief of the Havelock (N.C.) Police Department. He also spent 30 years with the Miami Police Department, retiring there as a major.Magnusson is a graduate of American Military University with a Master's in Military history. Chief Magnusson also boxed as an amateur for twenty-six years. You will find his passion for history and boxing in many of his writings. Magnusson and his wife Rosa reside in South Florida, where they have five children and two grandkids.
David Magnusson

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