Our son has an obsession with removing stickers. Above our fireplace is a lever that controls the flap that either closes or opens the passageway to the chimney. A label indicated whether or not the flap was open, but of course our little guy peeled it and tore it to bits and pieces.
A few days later I decided to use a pastel crayon to write in a “C” for closed and “O” for open because we seldom use the fireplace and we tend to forget the appropriate position. While noticing that the lever was swung to the left, I said to my wife, “It was left open.” I then moved the lever to the right, and wrote the letter “O” on the left and the “C” on the right.
“You mislabelled it”, replied my wife.
“No I didn’t.”
“Yes you did. You just said it was left open.”
What she was saying was wrong, but I was too preoccupied with the pastel, which had broken into two pieces, and I just assumed that she had not heard what I had really said.
But of course it soon occurred to me that because she was reading a book she didn’t see me move the lever. She heard “open position”, then saw me write a “C” on what she thought was the same position all along.
I had not slept well all week, so as a final verification, I stuck my hand up towards the chimney and did indeed feel resistance. When I swung the lever to the left, my hand went through as expected; the flap had folded to an open position.
It’s so easy to base judgements on limited data. Moreover it is not always obvious as to why someone else comes to a wrong conclusion. Although it is a process often hindered by other variables that creep up, the channels of communication not only have to remain open, but they need to be receptive over a wide range of frequencies.