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Volume 24, Issue 18;   May 1, 2024: Antipatterns for Time-Constrained Communication: II

Antipatterns for Time-Constrained Communication: II


Recognizing just a few patterns that can lead to miscommunication can reduce the incidence of miscommunications. Here's Part II of a collection of antipatterns that arise in communication under time pressure, emphasizing those that depend on content.
A dangerous curve in an icy road

A dangerous curve in an icy road. It's a metaphor for risky communications in which the risk arises from the content of the communication. The vehicle is the communicator and the road is the message.

In Part 1 of this exploration, I described three communication antipatterns that can arise independent of what we intend to communicate. In this Part 2, I describe antipatterns that arise, in part, because of the attributes of what we're communicating.

As in the previous posts in this series, I use the name Eugene (E for Expressing) when I'm referring to the person expressing an idea, asking a question, or in some other way contributing new material to an exchange. And I use the name Rachel (R for Receiving) when I'm referring to someone who's Receiving Eugene's communication.

With that prolog, here are three antipatterns that increase the risk of miscommunication.

Second language/culture effects
Even though all discussion participants are speaking the same language, for some participants, that language is their native language, while for others, it's a second language (or third, or …) acquired later in life. Miscommunications can arise when using the later-acquired language to convey culture-specific concepts. So, for example, if Eugene is speaking his first language, and Rachel her second, it's easy to imagine the difficulties that can arise. Even easier: Both are speaking the same later-acquired language.
An analogous risk pertains to cultural factors. If the matter at hand has cultural components, a participant who hails from a different culture might understand the contributions of others in a way that differs from the way they were intended.
For example, the word jurors in the sentence, "Jurors decide who is guilty" can become judge when used (or heard) by someone unfamiliar with the notion of jury trials. [Pavlenko 2017]
The game of telephone
The game Telephone is a globally popular game for children. Players arrange themselves in a chain or line. The player at one end of the chain whispers a message to the next player in the chain, who then passes it along to the next, and so on. For chains of five or more, the message received at the end of the chain can be strikingly different from the original message. The contrast can be very entertaining.
At work, this effect is far from entertaining, because we depend on faithful replication at each link of the chain. Distortion is more likely to appear when complex or technical information is passed from one person to the next. When groups converse under time pressure, distortions are introduced and they can lead to miscommunications.
Anger and hostility are afoot
Under time pressure, or pressure of any kind, we can experience stress. And stress can lead to anger. [Arslan 2010] When participants become angry, their ability to understand each other — or even to think clearly — can become impaired. [Miller 2023]
An ability to If the matter at hand has cultural components, a
participant who hails from a different culture might
understand the contributions of others in a way
that differs from the way they were intended
notice anger early is helpful in mitigating the risk of undesirable outcomes when we communicate under time pressure. Early notice of anger begins with awareness of time pressure. When we know we're under time pressure, we can be alert to the onset of anger.
Political consequences
In some instances, Eugene might be aware that certain contributions to a conversation might have political consequences. For example, questioning the credibility of a report might be equivalent to questioning the credibility of the author of the report.
Political sensitivity can affect the content of communications. For example, Eugene might be aware that political consequences of certain comments could be significant and unwelcome. He might tend to withhold those comments. Or he might tend to slant them so as to limit their unwelcome effects. When this happens, Eugene might be unaware of the full effects of the adjustments. Unintended distortions are possible.

Last words

In Part III of this exploration we describe antipatterns that arise from contextual factors.  Antipatterns for Time-Constrained Communication: I First issue in this series   Antipatterns for Time-Constrained Communication: III Next issue in this series  Go to top Top  Next issue: Antipatterns for Time-Constrained Communication: III  Next Issue

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Comprehensive list of all citations from all editions of Point Lookout
[Pavlenko 2017]
Aneta Pavlenko. "Francois Grosjean: Misunderstanding in the Multilingual Workplace," Psychology Today Cognition bog. Available here. Retrieved 15 April 2024. Back
[Arslan 2010]
Coskun Arslan. "An Investigation of Anger and Anger Expression in Terms of Coping with Stress and Interpersonal Problem-Solving," Educational Sciences: Theory and Practice 10:1 (2010), pp. 25-43. Available here. Retrieved 16 April 2024 Back
[Miller 2023]
Christopher W.T. Miller, M.D., "Anger overwhelms our thinking brain. Here's how to bring it back online." The Washington Post, September 29, 2023. Available here. Retrieved 16 April 2024. Back

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