Effective Communication: Can You Actually Overcommunicate?

 In Communication

The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”  -George Bernard Shaw

Business leaders, speakers, and authors often talk about the importance of overcommunicating. I’m not convinced it’s possible. If you think communication is a one-way process of talking at people, then maybe there’s some merit to it. I prefer to call this messaging–meaning the message only moves from the sender to the receiver. It’s the classic advertising concept of frequency. The belief is that if I say it enough times, you’ll finally get it.

I had a friend who used to jokingly say, “Do I need to say it LOUDER or s..l..o..w..e..r?!”

He would drag that “slower” out. While it was always funny when he said it (unless he was saying it to me), the underlying premise is that you’re either hard of hearing, so I need to say it louder, or you’re not sharp enough to understand what I’m saying, so I need to slow down.

Here is a much better definition of communication: A two-way process of reaching mutual understanding, in which participants not only exchange (encode-decode) information, news, ideas and feelings but also create and share meaning.1

Based on that definition of communication, I’m not sure you can overcommunicate. You may only have to say it once or you may need to say it several times in different ways, but the end goal is creating and sharing meaning. For communication to be effective, both parties need to be in on the process. Don’t overcommunicate by simply messaging. Instead, do it through meaningful dialogue that creates shared understanding.


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