Communicating Clearly: Isn’t Working

Grasping at the meaning of a message can leave us throwing our hands in the air.

Obfuscating correspondence during sign-mediated information interchanges between two parties, to the exclusion of the proletariat is a bourgeoisie affectation that succeeds only in disassociating and causing dereliction from the paramount intentionality of the initially initiated interaction.


Communicating is difficult. It is only made more difficult by using specialized jargon (slang specific to certain groups or situations). It is further complicated by making simple messages more complex in hopes of impressing, persuading, or generally making mountains out of molehills.

In all these long years of education, I have finally come to realize that it is a bigger challenge to make things simpler rather than more complicated. “It’s so true, distilling something to its elemental form is hard and sometimes nearly impossible,” was Rachel’s response to my probes about how she also came to this conclusion. Its been a long hard road to arrive on the side of simplicity and clear communication. In high school Rachel and I would constantly revise papers in order to “sound smarter.” We would inject our essays full of lovely words like defenestration, epiphanical, and antidisestablishmentarianism, hoping to give our writing an air of intelligence and sophistication. Little did we know this was the literary equivalent of  playing dress-up and putting on mommy’s high heels. Big words and complex sentence structures are fine when used  thoughtfully and carefully.

Above all else its important to find the core message and to communicate it as simply as possible. Cut out the bullshit because in our super busy world no one has time to sort through all the miscommunication in order to recieve the message.

I had the most amazing sculpture professor at the University of Tulsa. His name was Chuck Tomlins and he taught me one thing. Sculpture is not about adding things and building things. Sculpture is knowing how much you can take away and still leave the essence. Communication is just like sculpture you need to know what the crucial bits are and how much you can strip away before they lose their meaning. In order to construct successful clear communications we need to be able to take away the things that are in the way of the message, not add them.

There is a calling for us all, to take away instead of add, and maybe, just maybe those who listen to us may have a message to take away.

“Writing is not like painting where you add. It is not what you put on the canvas that the reader sees. Writing is more like a sculpture where you remove, you eliminate in order to make the work visible. Even those pages you remove somehow remain.”   – Elie Wiesel

5 thoughts on “Communicating Clearly: Isn’t Working

  1. I definitely agree with this.

    Everyone knows that they try to sound ‘smarter’ to impress others, especially in academia, and this can lead to further confusion and complication. But I also agree with your point about ‘dumbing’ things down too much.

    I have always said ‘simplicity is key’, as I always find that the best way to teach/tell someone is to explain it basically and then proceed with my next saying – ‘learn by doing’. See….even my quotes are simple!

    I do think it is important for people to communicate across that they know what they are saying, but a lot of the time it depends on the audience receiving the communication. Try teaching kids to learn the alphabet, then use the same approach with the teachers themselves….it just doesn’t happen.

    It’s the same with communicating things to people from other countries. Speaking to someone with a different language can be tough, but the use of body language/intuition/experience can really help with this – as I know from experience. My time in Austria has taught me very well to do this and how important clear and concise communication has to be – for both parties.

    Good blog Alicia, very thoughtful.

  2. I love that I can now keep up with you via blog!
    If I remember correctly, we did a fair amount of playing dress up in that old honors class… 🙂

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