Sunday, July 29, 2012

Did I Really Hear What I Think You Said?

In this age of instant communication, the burden for interpretation and perception falls on the receiver, not the sender. It has become a tragic game to see how to best edit a statement or speech to change its intended meaning in order to support some other point of view.  So it is up to the listener/reader to understand exactly what was written or said.  We cannot take things at face value because we risk making a mistake.  Let me explain.

In my writing blog, Bits of Biz, I recently addressed the need for an editor.  The crux of the matter is that our brains interpret words and not individual letters.  As long as the words begin and end with the correct letter, what lies between can be a mess and we will still read the words correctly.  So we "see" wagon even when it is written woagn.

Unfortunately, this trick can play havoc with the truth. The truth in the example above is that the word is misspelled.  The word is not wagon.  

Believing what we hear or see, even when it seems to be devoid of logic, is the reason that urban legends have a life. We all have a habit of assuming we know what we heard or read and basing our judgments on that.

Interpreting what we see (or hear) is part of the communication process.  While we depend on the writer or speaker to make themselves clear, it is also our responsibility to make sure that we see the letters exactly as written, not as we think they are.  When we hear something, it is our responsibility to be sure we heard all of what was said.  This applies to commercials, news stories, cartoons, and political statements.  

Just as proofreading my books is a challenge getting the whole story or statement is hard work. It requires that we set aside what we think we heard or read and go after what is really there. How do we do that? Read or watch the same story in different locations.  Notice that the lead story on ABC is not necessarily the same story that opens on CBS. I am particularly aware of this on my local news. Or compare CNN to PBS to Fox; the Tribune to the Times to the Daily News.  (Insert name of your paper.)  

With careful "proofreading," you can get past the tricks and find the true word, story or intent.

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