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Monday, July 20, 2015

Words On A Screen

I am tired of people who read words on a screen, then make huge assumptions based on this tiny amount of info. How about you?

A common study once determined that human communication is only 7% textual, and that the remaining 93% is made up of body language, facial expressions, gestures, voice tone and inflection and other non-verbal communication. When people are online, using keyboards to put words on a screen, they are relying on an underused 7% of communication skills to relay 100% of their message. People either do not realize this, or they choose to ignore it. Some people who communicate in chat rooms, comments, or on social media insist on taking a fraction of a persons persona that is no more than words on a screen and make tremendous assumptions about the sender.
See, the sender of information has a specific, intended meaning in mind when they go through the effort to communicate with another human . The sender communicates a message, and it is received. The receiver then has the responsibility to reasonably decode the message. Again, it is unwise for the receiver to assume that what they interpret is exactly 100% of the intended message. 

In some cases, the norm appears to be that receivers are perfectly willing to decide that the way they interpret the information is exactly the only way the sender could have meant the message. This is a problem if the receiver chooses to accept the message in a negative way without asking the sender questions, or at the very least realize that the first assumption they make PROBABLY isn't the correct, intended message. If the receiver feels threatened by the information, at times they will lash and bash, and begin a vitriolic attack on the sender.
There are many reasons why people feel emboldened to take their 7% and display themselves as ignorant, hateful miscreants, but the bottom line is that communication receivers routinely:

  1. Make assumptions about the sender's information based on their own narrow personal frame of reference
  2. Refuse to ask the sender for more information
  3. Decide that what they assumed is the only way the information may be taken
Any of these choices only serve to make the receiver a fool. After all, do you ever just walk into a room, hear a bit of a conversation, and then assume the rest about a person based on this minimal amount of information? Is this a smart way to communicate? Does this make sense to you? If you answered "yes" to any of those questions, then you are part of the problem, not the solution.
The next time you have the urge to take 7% of weak, underused communication skills and make narrow, small-minded assumptions, and then decide that a person is 100% of what tiny information you have gathered, then just realize this - when you belittle, name-call, insult without cause, or otherwise expose your own ignorance, YOU are the one allowing words on a screen to bother you. Instead of taking the time to either:
  1. Make other assumptions (it is the least you can do)
  2. Offer an intelligent counter viewpoint
  3. Simply ask the sender of their intent
If your response is to jump on the sender after making your own assumptions, then you are a fool. Yes, you. Quit doing this. You pollute an otherwise intelligent conversation, and waste collective time. If you have questions, or a differing viewpoint, certainly offer it. If you, however, take 7% and make it 100%, you lose. Not 'loose', 'lose'. You lose when you are a fool, and others think to themselves, "That person has issues. They let words on a screen get to them." Of course, that isn't all we think.
I realize that the nonverbal to textual study that is referenced is a bit dated, and that it represents a small sample, but here's something you need to know. More and more studies show that nonverbal to textual ratio may be more like 75% to 25%. This means that 25% is just as insignificant as 7%, since humans still rely on nonverbal communication three times more than textual communication.
Ancient Roman philosopher Epictetus is quoted as saying, "We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak." This may work with non-textual speech, but I contend that in modern times, the saying is closer to "We have two eyes and ten fingers so that we may gossip five times more than we observe." Combined with anonymity, this approach can lead to a quick  downward spiral which usually ends threads in any number of undignified ways. However, you aren't as anonymous as you think.
Now you are informed. There are no excuses. Only you have the power to understand the knowledge contained in this video. Only you have the power to put it to use. Now that you are aware, you have no reason to not act civil, decent and intelligent as you communicate on the internet. Hopefully you are mature enough to put this all together, and help out the rest of us.
Thank you.
Stephen L. Wilson
Tutor and Indie Author/Publisher
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