Hearing and speaking are essential tools of human communication. They are basically analog tools converted into digital inputs in our brain. They are intended to exchange concepts, observations, commands, etc between a number of human beings, with the result of effecting some change such as an action, or change of opinion, etc. They are messages exchanged across human barriers and of course, it is of fundamental importance to understand their efficiency and accuracy, as it affects the lives of all humanity. The subject has already been extensively studied in medicine and social sciences, so I will add only a couple of remarks to it, inspired by the intensity of emotions displayed in the recent 2020 US election and the obvious and extensive polarization of world politics.
A politician says one thing, sends a message. Everybody hears the same analog packet. Yet, the interpretation of the words diverge completely, depending on the class of listeners: supporters identify one message and concur, opponents seem to capture a different message and disagree ‘intensely’. How can it be? It is natural to oppose words that convey a message that you judge negatively. Yet often a message intended to be viewed positively by the listening audience achieves the exact opposite of fueling additional conflict. I believe that many distortions affect such messages between sender and receiver. Distortions are caused by prejudices, fears, distrust of intent, distrust of potential results, etc. Very often, the content of the messages are ‘soft’, i.e involve intangibles such as values, or circumstances which differ based on the various conditions of speakers and listeners. These distortions can rarely be corrected: it requires a lot of mental speed and energy to combat our own biases and reset initial impressions to different or opposite views. It is possible but so hard. It would require that listeners double check on the fly their message translation accuracy, and for each message unbiased their views. Very difficult and even more so when the sheer quantity of messages becomes overwhelming! If there is any hope that messages will ever be understood in conformity with their intent or even with the facts, I believe it will require:
- that speakers be quite aware of the distortions that will occur and ‘deal’ with them. Deal with their cause , often distrust, fear, prejudice. We have to speak not in our language, but in the language of the listeners. Switching psyches in public require a (temporary) deconstruction of our own script, our public persona, which our macho society renders quite difficult. Worth a try though. To be heard by someone who fears you, requires complete ‘disarmament’. Drop your weapons and your threats, and then and only then the distorsions will subside a little.
- that listeners do a parallel effort of deconstructing their carefully constructed shields,