The Gorilla in the Room! The Complexity of Communication.

The first time I began to appreciate the importance of clear communication
was many years ago now while taking part in a training session when the instructor pointed
out and made more obvious all of the elements of communication that I had previously paid
little or no attention to and took for granted. While talking about the art of communication,
he particularly emphasised the importance of clarity and the effects and impact of non-verbal
communications, such as gestures, body language and so on. He also highlighted the
importance of tone of voice and the presence created by the individual during in-person


As part of his presentation, he methodically went through all of the different aspects of
communicating and provided excellent examples of where things can sometimes go wrong
and confuse to add further credence to his contention that many of us don't pay
sufficient attention to detail when communicating. He went on to show the now infamous
Invisible Gorilla experiment and how our minds don't work the way we think they do.

The two researchers involved in the experiment, Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons
had been studying inattentional blindness for over a decade, and the video depicts some
people dressed in white t-shirts and others in black throwing a ball to one another with the
the requirement that everyone attending the training session count the number of ball passes
made by those dressed in white t-shirts. I, like everyone else in the room, focussed entirely on
counting the number of passes made by those in white t-shirts, which of course meant I did not
notice the guy dressed in a gorilla suit walking through the video. Needless to say, when this
was pointed out; I was very embarrassed to think I could have missed something so obvious,
but I really shouldn't have been.

The reality is that for most of us, there is an assumption that when we communicate, we are
doing so clearly and without ambiguity, and everyone who's supposed to receive and
understand the message does so. This topic is explored and emphasised in one of the
modules from Year 1 of the BA in Social Care, Communications in Social Care, where the
importance of clear, unambiguous communication and the methods and channels chosen are
discussed and considered in some depth. From time to time, we are all guilty of making
assumptions about our communications skills and the many aspects of the process are
taken for granted and we've made everything crystal clear from our perspective.

The problems arise when we don't give sufficient consideration to the receiver's
perspective and ability to accurately process the message being relayed, you see, it's not our
perspective that matters in the communication process; yes, of course, it's very
important to always communicate as clearly as possible, but it's equally important to be
conscious of the receiver's perspective and give due care and attention to how your
message will be received and interrupted. This simple increase in awareness and paying
added attention will improve communications skills immeasurably and hopefully make
everyone more aware of the gorilla in the room.

Another area of revelation for me around the same time was the serious impact of unconscious
bias can have, but that's for another blog!

Anthony G. Moyles, Associate Tutor - BA in Social Care,  Open Training College


Interested in some upskilling in the area of Communications?

Check out our next short course, the standalone module Communication in Social Care from the BA in Social Care (Year One):