Communication between people is a multi-layered thing. Because of this fact, many of us feel inadequate in our attempts to understand others and be understood. Whenever any two people try to communicate, there are at least two levels to that communication: the overt message consists of the words we hear and the gestures we see; the hidden message has more to do with the intent behind the words. This is something we ordinarily overlook because we don’t have the language to deal with it. Consider this example: as Jay enters his assistant Roberta’s office, she announces: “I’m almost finished with the Power Point presentation. And then I’ll get to re-doing the promo piece for the trade show, and maybe if there’s time today, I’ll do the budget report leftover from Friday.” The overt message here is some information about what she is working on. What’s the hidden message? She is telling him that she is overwhelmed with too much to do, that he’d best not ask anything more of her today.
The keys to honesty
Dr. Susan Campbell has authored nine books on relationships and conflict resolution, including the recent best-seller, Saying What‘s Real, on which this article is based. She has delivered hundreds of seminars internationally, and has coached thousands of individuals and couples. She has also directed a non-profit, consulted to Fortune 500 companies, and guest lectured at Harvard, Stanford, and UCLA.