Wednesday, November 26, 2008

He Said, She Said

The ADN reported the other day on the disagreement about who will become mayor when Mark Begich steps down to become US Senator:
But chairman Matt Claman and vice-chair Sheila Selkregg have very different recollections of commitments that may or may not have been made at a private meeting in April that led to their leadership positions.
I know both these people and think they're both good mayoral material though with very different strengths. I also learned a long time ago, that what I thought I said and what my wife thought I said (and the same about what she said) are often miles apart.

One communication model identifies several places where the message can go wrong.

1. There's the sender
2. The sender has to create a message (the idea he wants to get to the receiver)
2. The message has to go through a medium or two (maybe just a shrug of a shoulder or raising of an eyebrow, or an actual formal language with words which then have to be conveyed through speech, an email, a note, etc.)
3. Then the receiver has to interpret the message she receives.

Each step of the way is fraught with potential problems.
  • Has the sender really figured out what idea he wants to send, or is it still a vague idea?
  • Has the sender translated it into a clear message? If the message is verbal, are the words chosen and organized unambiguously?
  • Does any of the message get lost in the medium through which it is sent? Is the ink smeared? Does the tone of voice send a different message than the content?
  • Finally, does the receiver use words the same way as the sender? How does her mental filtering system modify the meaning of the message?
It's very possible that they are both 'right.' The message that he 'sent' may well be what he said it was and, the message she received may also be what she said it was. But when two people, even two good people, strongly want the same thing, their communications may get skewed. Or worse.

I hope they can both put this all in perspective. We need another good mayor. And an assembly that can work closely with the mayor, but also stand up to the mayor when necessary. Good luck to the both of them and to all of us.


  1. Good discourse on the communication dynamic between these two candidates. I hope as you continue your exploration of mayoral candidates, you'll look at Eric Croft. I think he's much more prepared to lead Anchorage than either Selkregg or Claman, and I hope his name doesn't get lost behind their ridiculous antics.

  2. Well, as Aristotle put it a ways back: pathos, ethos, logos. The building of the successful public servant is not a light task. I can relate with pathos here but I know that both must now show character and reason.


Comments will be reviewed, not for content (except ads), but for style. Comments with personal insults, rambling tirades, and significant repetition will be deleted. Ads disguised as comments, unless closely related to the post and of value to readers (my call) will be deleted. Click here to learn to put links in your comment.