Charlie Brown's Teacher
June 3, 2011
As the story goes, in the days preceding the attack on Pearl Harbor, Japan sent an ambassador to Washington with a document stating an official declaration of war. The problem? It was written in Japanese and no one bothered to interpret the meaning. Days later the unprovoked act of war at Pearl Harbor ensued and America joined the fight in World War II.
Communication. It's important on BOTH ends. Japan knew what it was trying to say and sent its emissary to spell out their intent. But the recipient spoke a different language, so there was NO communication. The message was not received. Japan was broadcasting their intentions loud and clear. And the intended recipient HEARD it. But because they didn't understand the message, they didn't LISTEN.
Is what we are trying to say being understood today? Is our intended message being delivered? Or are we speaking the equivalent of a foreign language to our intended recipient? Are we succeeding at miscommunication?
I heard a traffic report on a local radio station yesterday, talking about an accident that had caused a huge traffic jam on a major highway. I heard about the wrecked vehicles, the emergency workers on the scene, the long line of cars stopped because of the accident and several other details. But it was almost 25 seconds before I heard the words: "You are going to want to avoid the Interstate between exits XX and ZZ."
Those words would have been helpful to me at the BEGINNING of the message, as I might have been able to AVOID the accident had I known it was about three miles ahead of me. Instead I heard various details about a generic wreck on some unknown highway. I wasn't really paying attention until I heard a detail that mattered to ME. Then I was tuned in. Listening. And also a little bit aggravated that they hadn't started with that pertinent fact first.
We may be speaking perfect English, but is our intended listener able to interpret our message? And even if they can understand the language we are speaking, are they listening to our words? Is our message clear and concise? Does it matter to them? Or is it just something that we are saying in a way that is comfortable and understood by us?
Charlie Brown's teacher is alive and well in 2011. She knows what she's telling her class but no one else understands it. We definitely don't want to be her.