Donot Shoot the Messenger – How Biases Distort Communication
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
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:
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:
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
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.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Prof. Chandra Kant, is an alumnus of IIM Calcutta and currently, a senior professor at Indus Business Academy, a leading business school in India. He teaches, change management, business leadership and Self Management.