Don’t Shoot the Messenger – How Biases Distort Communication

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Traditionally, we are advised to differentiate the message from the messenger. But the messenger will determine how we receive the message. This article explains how and why the messenger gets attacked for the message.

What is effective communication? It is a good composition of the message and its flawless transmission? Is it reception of the message without distortion?

Distortion of the message happens at two points

  1. during transmission – physical distortion
  2. due to the belief of the receiver

The same message, to two different persons will have different reactions. There are three types of beliefs that a receiver has that can impact distortion:

  1. the beliefs that a receiver has and therefore how he interprets the message itself – this is impacted by the language, the tone and the structure of the message. Sometime the size of the message makes a difference: big emails, short sms, terse verbal responses, long and winded verbal responses (lectures)
  2. the receiver’s belief about the sender and the intent of the sender (even an innocuous birthday wishes will have sinister overtones if sent by someone who I think is my enemy; if you do not like a lecturer or his intent, then even his sincere messages will have different overtones)
  3. the communication medium : in today’s discussion, the messenger. I am ignoring physical media like telephone cables, Internet etc.

Traditionally, we are advised to differentiate the message from the messenger. We are supposed to be messenger agnostic. “Don’t shoot the messenger,” we are entreated.

But the messenger will determine how we receive the message. If we do not like the messenger or the way he delivers the message, we will not care about the content or the sender. If a book is good, but it is presented by a lecturer or a student we do not like, then we do not care about the contents of the book, or its writer. If a person gives you feedback, we will care about the feedback based on who is giving us the feedback.

Does it mean that I have to be liked before I can send a message?

Does it mean that I have to be liked before I can deliver a message?

Does it mean that my messenger has to be liked?

Does it mean the message loses its significance?

Look at the response of the receiver. If he does not like the message, he has choices:

  1. attack the message,
  2. attack the sender and also
  3. attack the messenger

If he does not like the sender or the messenger, he has same choices.

So when people do not do what I want them to do, I need to look at my message, the receiver’s perception about me and the receiver’s
perception about the messenger.

I also run the risk that if people do not like my message, they will attack the messenger – the poor guy

So when I ask my students at a top business school to study, and if they do not want to, they will attack the message (the course is useless) or the sender (the writer is not qualified) or the messenger i.e. me(the professor is useless and does not know how to teach)

If a group member does not like what another group member is suggesting, he will attack his suggestion or he will attack the person.

If a group member does not like the person delivering the suggestion, even if the suggestion is goodFree Reprint Articles, he will attack the person and the suggestion.

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About the Author: Tenali Rama

elani Rama Rivera is a 28-year-old trainee tradesperson who enjoys running, cycling and helping old ladies across the road. He is creative and considerate, but can also be very lazy and a bit dull. He is Pakistan. He started college but never finished the course. Physically, Telani is in pretty good shape. He is average-height with brown skin, brown hair and black eyes. He grew up in a middle class neighbourhood. He was raised in a happy family home with two loving parents. He is currently married to Lacey Abbie Griffin. Lacey is the same age as him and works as a cleaner. Telani has one child with wife Lacey: Meghan aged 2. Telani's best friend is a trainee tradesperson called Francis Clark. They have a very firey friendship. He also hangs around with Norman Davies and Hannah Price. They enjoy social media together.

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