The Five States Of Communication
When you send an email or leave a voice mail, you are transmitting a piece of information to someone. This doesn’t mean she has read or heard it, it just means the message has left your hands with the intent to arrive in hers. With email and the Web, it’s very easy to transmit information, but there is no guarantee anyone is ever going to read it.
When someone checks his email or signs for a package, the message has been received. However, reception doesn’t mean the message was opened or that the recipient has any intention of reading it or spending any time trying to figure it out. While read receipts for email do tell you it was opened, nothing else is confirmed.
Digesting and interpreting a message’s information correctly is a big jump in effort from simply receiving a message. Actual cognitive activity has to take place in order to understand something (“What does this mean?”). Understanding may require time. Often, the recipient needs to ask questions to clarify the original message (this complicated the simple five stage framework, creating a tree of simultaneous nested communications as each question, and each response, starts its own sequence).
Understanding something doesn’t mean a person agrees with it. I might fully comprehend every aspect of a request, but I may think the idea is insane. Achieving agreement between two intelligent, opinionated people can be a complex and time-consuming activity, especially if the objections aren’t stated clearly. Despite how difficult it is, agreement is the basis for making decisions that impact a team.
5. Converted to useful action
Despite how much energy it can take to understand something properly and perhaps reach a level of agreement on it, significantly more energy is required to get someone to take action. Even if the message explicitly called for the receiver to take action, there’s often no strict obligation on her part to do so. Perhaps she assumes it is OK to meet the request next week or next month (when you need it done in the next 10 minutes). And perhaps, worst of all, it’s entirely possible an action is taken but it’s the wrong action, or it is an action the sender of the message doesn’t agree with.