Communication: Do They Hear What You Say?

Earlier this morning, I spent some time trying to unclog the toilet (note: if you live in an old building, be sure to get a high-quality plunger!) and I was reminded of my time living in a residence hall. At first, I did a double-take because that was almost 10 years ago. In thinking about my time as a resident of a residence hall, I remembered my roommate and his accidental slip up.

This story’s not about anything scandalous — in fact, it could happen to anyone. We were coming up on the winter checkouts and I was planning on leaving the residence hall after he was. As a result, my roommate had taken care of his share of the cleaning duties and was about to leave. Simultaneously, our RA (Resident Assistant) was knocking on the door — he was about to tell us about the events coming up that week and probably remind us to sign-up for a time to checkout.

The RA noticed that my roommate was about to leave and asked him why he didn’t sign-up for a time to checkout. My roommate explained that I was leaving in a couple of days and that I’d “checkout” our room. The RA then explained that we each checkout — individually.


The RA thought that his communication materials (flyers, bulletin boards, etc.) had clearly stated that each resident needed to check-out, but my roommate (and to some extent, me) thought that just the room needed to be checked out.

So, what’s the lesson here?

No matter how clear you think your marketing materials are, always, always, always have multiple sets of eyes look them over. If it’s possible, it’s even better to have someone outside of your area of expertise look it over. Meaning, if our RA had asked one (or more) of his colleague(s) to look over the materials, there’s a better chance than not that none of them would have interpreted it like my roommate and I did. It would have been better for the RA to ask one of the residents (or someone maybe even someone outside of the residence hall) to look over the materials to make sure that the message the RA wanted to convey… was being conveyed.

Consider the last important bit of communication you were involved in sending. Are you certain that your recipient understood what you were trying to communicate?

Published by Jeremiah Stanghini

Jeremiah's primary aim is to provide readers with a new perspective. In the same vein as the "Blind Men and the Elephant," it can be difficult to know when one is looking at the big picture or if one is simply looking at a 'tusk' or a 'leg.' He writes on a variety of topics: psychology, business, science, entertainment, politics, history, etc.

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