Jenna and her friends sat in a circle to play a game. Jenna started by whispering a secret to Brandon, who was seated next to her. The others couldn’t hear Jenna and she could tell the secret only once. The secret was a simple sentence: “Mike really likes stuffed green giraffes.”
Brandon repeated the secret to the guest next to him, with only one chance to say it correctly. And so it continued around the circle. Finally, the last person reported to the group what she heard: “Mark retches loudly when Stella laughs.”
Everyone giggled behind their hands. Stella glanced around nervously. Then she burst into tears.
When Do Messages Get Mixed Up?
Jenna’s friends demonstrate a common problem among both children and adults: a message can change as it is passes from one person to another. By the time a message reaches the end of its stream, the end result often bears no resemblance to the original.
Sound familiar? Cascading messages wreak conflict in an organization and hurt in relationships.
The enemy desires mixed-up messages. It’s one of his favorite tools – one he uses to breed divisiveness. God, on the other hand, is not a God of confusion but always encourages truth. He can enable you to inspire well-ordered communication that builds up relationships, rather than tearing them down.
Practical Steps for Clear Messages
You can proactively build healthy communication with these steps.
- Simplify. Make your message clear and concise. Send just one point per message. Clarity diffuses confusion.
- Verify. Ask people to repeat the message back to you to confirm it before they pass it along.
- Test. After you’ve sent a message, spend time in the middle of the chain to understand what is heard and what is passed along. You’ll discover at what point in the chain your messages are changing. Then you can set about correcting those weaker links.