Re: Effective Communication (was Universal Translators)

Michael Lorrey (
Sat, 09 Nov 1996 15:59:41 -0500

E. Shaun Russell wrote:
> On 08/11/96, David Musick wrote:
> >Effective communication is very difficult to achieve between humans. >It
> is an art that requires much training and practice.
> I think a lot of communication stems from assumption. Assumption is
> a primarily human trait that enables us to make a judgment without hearing a
> whole situation. This realization was quite apparent for me yesterday after
> an unfortunate car accident on my behalf. Anyhow, I believe that assumtion
> is one of the biggest flaws of human language. Once someone makes an
> assumption, that assumption will eventually turn into what that person sees
> as true. For example, a person passing by the scene of my accident might
> say "He must have been going too fast around that turn." when truly, that is
> not the case as all. That person could go home and tell his\her family
> about how someone was "...going too fast down Nash Street". That is not
> effective communication.
> What *is* effective communication is fact-based discussion. If the
> person [mentioned above] who saw my car after the crash was to find out
> *exactly* what happened, then he\she could effectively tell his\her
> family...or whoever truthfully. However, if humans were to use fact-based
> discussion all the time, there would be a tremendous lack of creativity in
> the human race. We're back where we started. What exactly is the
> definition of 'effective communication'? Sure, fact-based discussion is
> effective...but it gets very boring. There has to be some sort of
> equilibrium between fact and filler. There must be some way to say what we
> want to say while still keeping some sense of 'being human' within our
> words. Any help or enlightenment as to *how* would be appreciated! :~)
> Ingredi Externus!
> -E. Shaun Russell

Yes, one of the root rules with diplomacy is to never assume anything.
You can only go on the facts, and what is explicitly stated. While
ordinary humans are rather sloppy in their communication, as they prefer
to be lazy with their language, and draw all sorts of perceptions based
on what their own agenda is, diplomats are highly trained in precise
communication. Whether they actually use it is another thing. One of
the big problems in diplomacy is the fact that so many political fund
contributors get appointed to ambassadorships without the requisite
training. In any interstellar mission, I would expect that there would
be a team of people trained in sociology, diplomacy, semantics, etc. on
board in case of just such an encounter. Anyone who makes it to space is
also more likely to be highly educated versus the average bloke. This is
unlike the adventurers during the age of discovery like Columbus,
Cortez, etc. who were more interested in wealth than communication, and
were typically illiterate as well.