Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Failure to communicate--impossible?

In the 1967 film, Cool Hand Luke, there is a famous line that says, "What we've got here is a failure to communicate." I've never actually seen the movie, so I can't really say what was so important about the line that made it fairly well known.
What I do know is that the line is flawed. *gasp!* I earned my degree at Brigham Young University in Communications--Broadcasting with an Emphasis on Production and a minor in English, so I learned a little bit about the concept of communicating.
The correct line should be, "What we have here is a failure to communicate effectively." Now, it may seem like I'm splitting hairs, but I'm not. As the saying goes, it makes the assumption that it is possible to not communicate at all. How would you do that?
Think about it: If I come home from work and ignore my family and say nothing to my wife, am I failing to communicate? No way! Just the opposite! I am communicating that something is wrong. The concept here is that communication isn't solely verbal. I have learned over time that if I'm being stubborn, or I really have no interest to what is going on, I'll slump slightly in my chair and fold my arms.
I had a boss that picked up on that about me and would call me out on it--which actually was a good thing because then we could discuss why I was being stubborn or disinterested.
If you still haven't bought into the concept that communication doesn't have to be verbal, next time you get into trouble, let's say, you get pulled over by the police for speeding, stick your tongue out at the person--see how well that goes over.
The concept is we are always communicating, even if we are not saying anything. The trick is to communicate effectively--which can be both verbally or non-verbally.
As a final example, here is a famous baseball story (from the best I can recall it). When playing in the outfield, and a ball is hit to where two of the outfielders have a chance to catch it, it is the center fielder's job to call whether or not he can get to it. So, there is this baseball player who was traded to a new team, and he plays centerfield. On the first day, a ball is hit to where both the center fielder and the right fielder can catch it. The center fielder yells, "I got it! I got it!" However, the right fielder crashes into him and the ball drops. When they get back to the dugout, the manager listens to what happened and says, "The right fielder doesn't speak English. You need to yell, 'Yo lo tango!' next time. It means, 'I got it' in Spanish."
So, the next day comes and there is another game. Again, a ball is hit to where both the center fielder and the right fielder can catch it. The center fielder yells, "Yo lo tango! Yo lo tango!" Then BOOM!, the center fielder and the right fielder crash into each other and the ball drops again. The center fielder is mad--until he remembers that a different player is in right field today--and he doesn't speak Spanish.

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