Muddled Messages In America's Past
Do you ever feel like communication — in this Age of Communication — is more confused and confusing than ever? Does anybody even read whole messages anymore — beyond the subject line or the first screen? Do you get tangled up in threads and bewildered by attachments? Do txt msgs n-furi-8 u?
Here's the real question: Are all these communication devices truly improving interaction between humans or just providing more opportunities for miscommunication?
"Technology can strengthen interpersonal communication or weaken it," says Anita Vangelisti, who teaches interpersonal communication at the University of Texas at Austin. "Technology is a channel for communication. It creates opportunities and means for communication that wouldn't exist otherwise."
In some cases, those opportunities "make for clearer, more efficient communication," she says. "In other cases, they can create misunderstanding."
A Failure To Communicate
Even though it seems like we invented miscommunication in recent years, American history is full of examples of misread missives and mangled telephonics — sometimes with tragic results, oftentimes not. Here are three examples from everyday life:
One Potential Upside
Each new communication device that comes down the pike "has different characteristics that affect interpersonal communication in different ways," Vangelisti says. "Smart communicators figure out that some technologies are better channels for certain types of interpersonal communication and others are more appropriate for other types of interpersonal communication."
But ultimately, miscommunication among humans is inevitable. "People bring their wants, experiences, likes, and dislikes to any communication interaction they engage in," she says. "The things they bring to any interaction affect how they interpret others' communication and how they respond."
She points out, however, "that miscommunication isn't always a bad thing." She cites research showing that, in some situations, miscommunication can even be beneficial to certain interpersonal relationships.
For example: "Romantic partners who are satisfied with their relationships engage in a form of miscommunication," Vangelisti says. "They often interpret each other's communication more positively than it was intended. In this way, miscommunication can help us keep our relationships happy."
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