Thursday, September 18, 2008


When you get close to some things you may no longer be able see them for what they are or were. Noise is one of those things. Noise is anything we don't value or appreciate or it can be much more important and demand our attention. Noise that demands our attention is what the concept I'm talking about.

Noise is anything that affects the fidelity of messages. Noise comes in many forms. If you were around me quite a bit you would discover that I have a tendency to begin talking about things that are perfectly clear to me, but since you haven't been inside my head, you haven't a clue as to what I'm thinking or saying. There is no context for you and you don't know what to do with the words.

So you ask, "What on earth are you talking about?"

Slightly irritated, I respond, "What do you think? I was talking about the current political campaign." From my egocentric point of view, you knew what I was thinking and now you're pretending not to follow my thought. That is an example of noise. When you assume that the ideas you have in your head are clearly represented by the ideas in the other person(s) head and you expect them to be able to understand what on earth you are talking about. Noise: anything that affects the fidelity of the message.

Another example of noise: "Please slow down. Your accent is making it hard for me to follow what you are saying. By the time I figure out what you have said, you're already off and running in a different direction." Accents can make oral communication a problem.

Another example: you and I are sitting in a cafe where everybody seems to be talking at the top of their voices, laughing and the jukebox is turned up way too loud. We came into the cafe for coffee and conversation. Now we realize that the noise level is so high we can't hear each other talking. So, we grab our coffees and head out to some more quite spot to talk.

Another example: I'm an actor in a play and I was forced to put my costume on before getting to the theater for rehearsal. My outfit makes me look like I haven't eaten enough for months, I haven't had a bath or shaved for an equally long time and I'm asking for directions to the theater. One quick look from you and you realize that you have nothing to say to me that I will understand or appreciate. So you just walk on by. The noise of my appearance is so loud that you won't really hear what I'm saying with my words, only what I'm saying with my costume.

Noise can be a lot of things, and they are all important to the fidelity of the message. We all need to spend a lot more time thinking about noise and how we need to control it.

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