From Ping-pong to Post-Modernism

Intention and interpretation are the vital leaps in communication we make to bridge the gap left by the symbolism of our words.
— Matthew Koren


You speak and have intention. I listen and have interpretation. How do you know that I know what you meant? 

In our last post, we talked about communication ping-pong and some strategies to get out of it when you find yourself 'in the game'. Boy, did I opened up a can of worms!

And I've always wanted to write more about these concepts, so here we go. So let's start simply: what do we mean by meaning?


I have an Albert Camus quote next to my desk that says, among other things, "meaning, a growth in experience as a result of receiving the communication, requires the hearer supply the imaginative link from the hearer's fund of experience to the abstract language symbols the speaker has used." I couldn't agree more.

Unless I pump you up with voltage-sensitive dyes (VSDs) and point a CCD (charge-coupled device) camera at you, I can't actually see any neural growth or changing activity. The rest is just inference. Said another way, blind faith that you understand me.

The hearer is taking the symbols of my words and matching them with symbols in her head. In even the best case scenario, this is like mixing apples with oranges.

So how do we know we've been heard? We listen to the symbols given back to us, and they aren't always words.

Are they of the same nature? Do they reflect understanding in the way we expected? If not, then what?

As we explore this concept over the next couple blog entries, do me a favor? Let me know if you get my drift? Thanks.

Matthew Koren unleashes the leadership potential in your people so teams can thrive. He is based out of Portland, OR. To learn more about his programs, click here. To receive great, useful content each month, sign up for his email list here. To discuss how Matt can support you, your organization, and teams, contact him today!