By Dr. Charles Ndhlovu
Communication – that transfer of message from one point to the other is inseparable from the reception of the message. That does not mean proper understanding of the message although that is a crucial element of communication.
Communication understood in an instrumental way would value so much if the message that is sent reaches it’s destination but then others would ask a further question – whether the message that reaches is really that which was sent and indeed whether even if it is the same message – but whether it is understood correctly.
That is why it is good to study the dynamics of the reception of the message. There are in this case issues that we look at which could lead in the correct understanding of the message.
These are steps that are crucial in understanding especially a message whose importance could be as serious on the lives of the people – such a message deserves proper understanding before acting on it or before re-sending it to many other people who could equally be hugely affected by
the reception of the message.
At times – due to improper understanding of the message grave things have happened in the world.
At times war can break out just because people do not rightly or correctly understand each other. At times even people could destroy each other – destroy so much – not because they are divided by anything really genuine – but because they do not understand each other’s message. People and nations have gone to war just because of communication.
It is not just from the media or from the mass media but also from the people
that we come across and even from the face to face communication.
The first issue is the alone effect. Herein the tendency is to read the message and understand it as one want to comprehend it.
There is no effort to double check one’s understanding of the message with other people – there is no effort to go further than one’s personal understanding. If that is only at the level of one’s comprehension, the damage could be negligible at times – although even at this level a lot of damage could be done.
A lot of people have ended up misunderstanding a message – going into themselves and have at times ended up committing suicide. This happens when one closes up one’s self and refuses or neglects about having to talk over with the other.
So this would apply at different levels where the alone effect in understanding the message can cause grave damage. The other issue is when one puts emphasis on the endings of the message. This happens when one does not concentrate on the message as such but only thinks about the beginnings and endings.
It could be about an article or something written – that one reads only the first and last line and thinks that is the message. It is not the whole message – it is only part of the message. This is another issue with regard to reception of the message.
The other difficulty has to do with stereotypes. It happens when one builds on simple impressions. The impressions are about people or the groups of people. One for example may say Africans are harsh people or they are inconsiderate people or they are unintelligent people or
that Africans are not good people. These obviously are generalizations and they are simple impressions that have no justifications. Or one may say the same about other classes of people and generalize their ways of life or their ways of thinking.
They are generalizations – also called stereotyping people. The stereotypes cannot be taken for granted – there is obviously more that
could be done or said in order to make sure that the impressions do not just remain at the level of impressions.
Stereotypes are impressions or generalizations. But then there are times when stereotypes can lead to a psychological way of dealing with people. They can lead to something concrete and that is the prejudice. One can look at someone negatively at times because of the
The stereotypes could lead into some negativity – and that is the prejudices. One could have a prejudice against a certain social group because of the stereotypes that are spread about them – one could hurt someone because their social group are stereotyped as thieves.
Someone in the past could have stolen and from then – onwards – every member of that social group could be stereotypes as a thief – hence the stereotype – those are thieves.
This stereotype could lead into a prejudice of such a social group. It is the same problem that exist between one country and another.
Some countries could be stereotypes – and this raises a certain prejudice about them but that could result from the message that are written or even produced about them.
It is at this level that people meet and straight away have high tempers while talking to each other or one another – not because they are bad people but because they do not understand one another because of the barrier of stereotyping messages that have been exchanged.
You sometimes wonder when people pass through a place and begin running – or refuse to visit a certain country or decline to go to one place – sometimes they are afraid even to meet someone they have heard about – they are afraid not because they are bad people, they may even be good willed people – but the stereotyping separates people and destroys them – and they are
treated with prejudice.
It is what happens when you meet an Indian – you think they will not like your food; or you could meet a Chinese and you think they will not like your mannerisms because you are different – yet if you listen to them with an open mind that is untainted with prejudice and stereotypes – you come to a point where you get over the stereotypes.
When one hears about the Middle East – one thinks and fears the prospect of visiting – because of the Television stories and pictures of wars – yet when you meet these people elsewhere you are surprised with their wish for a peaceful life.
Unfortunately – stereotyping when it has taken someone to the level of prejudice which is negativity. All else that one does is coloured by negativity – henceforth it is an attempt to prove our prejudices and stereotypes – a bad way to begin!
Stereotypes prejudice and negativity sometimes ends up into aggression and acts of hate, physical harm, mental and psychological torture, and sometimes people even kill one another because of stereotypes, prejudice and the aggression that follows henceforth.That is why we need to go into what is called – elaboration of the message.
We have to think critically about what we hear. This includes giving ourselves time to think about what we have heard whether indeed it is true or not or indeed whether we have correctly understood the message or not. We have to look at the content of the message. What is the message? We need
not emotionalize the content – it is possible to read in the content what we want to hear and that is why we end up reading our own emotions in the message.
We need to have the capacity to think about this content as it is – without immediately emotionalizing it. We then move to the level of auto-revelation – what is the person saying about themselves in this message
Does the reality of the person say something about how this message could be properly understood? Someone that is a student – is understood in the context of being a student. Then there is the appeal part – what appeal is this message making?
It does not make sense when one thinks they have understood the message when they have missed the whole appeal that the message is making. It is worth – avoiding a self-centred approach to the