Thursday, July 25, 2024

Even Communication Experts Miscommunicate

“There’s a program on ‘virtual reality’ tonight at Stanford. Do you want to go?” Robert asked.

“I’m not sure. Tell me about it.” I responded.

“Well, you put on these special goggles and gloves and you see a three dimensional picture of, say, a meadow.You reach out with the glove and you see your hand in this meadow. You turn your head and see one side of the meadow, or turn around to see what’s behind you.”

“That sounds fascinating. Let’s go.”

So began our trip to communication hell-a three hour lecture by a droning researcher telling us about virtual reality. He even showed us a video of himself talking about virtual reality. Finally, we saw a few minutes of a video showing what you can see through the goggles.

This was hardly what I had in mind.

I’d expected to put on the goggles and gloves to experience virtual reality. How did Robert and I have such different expectations for the evening?

Robert had described virtual reality in such a way that I assumed I would be participating, not just listening to the experience. I thought that, since it was a program at Stanford, we’d be in the lab where scientists were developing the technology. Wrong!

What could I have done to avoid this communication breakdown?

1. I could have asked a more direct question. Instead of “Tell me about it” I should have been more specific. “What is virtual reality and what will this program consist of?” would have helped me to have a clearer understanding.

2. I could have clarified my expectations, making sure that what I thought would happen was what Robert thought would happen. Then I could have made an informed choice about whether I wanted to listen to a three hour lecture or not. If I had still chosen to attend, I would not have been so bored and disappointed. (Robert, as it turns out, was glad he attended. Even though the presenter was not enthralling, Robert was willing to overlook it because he was interested in the information.)

So it happens to all of us. The best we can do is prevent a trip to communication hell too often.

Rebecca L. Morgan, CSP, is a dynamic speaker, author and seminarist. Contact her at 1440 Newport Ave., San Jose, CA 95125, 408/998-7977, 800/247-9662, fax: 408/998-1742. Please contact Rebecca for permission to reprint or repost this item.

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