Interpersonal communication does not simply involve the exchange of messages. It essentially involves the creation and exchange of meaning. One important implication of the linear model of communication follows
from its concern with ‘the message’. This implies that we can arrive at an accurate and unambiguous statement of whatever was communicated. And it also suggests that we shall be able to verify that statement by checking with the participants as well as any observers present. In fact, this is extremely difficult if not impossible to achieve. Whereas we might not agree that ‘all human behaviour is ambiguous’,10 just about anything anyone says could be interpreted in a number of ways. Luckily this does not happen all of the time or we would live in a chaotic world. For example, how would you interpret the following question from neighbour A: ‘Did you have a good time last night?’ This could be a casual, friendly gesture. But
what could it mean?
• Is your neighbour behaving genuinely? Perhaps he is being cynical and deliberately trying to ‘soften you up’ so that he can come and borrow something from you?
• On the other hand, is it a subtle accusation of rowdy behaviour? Is it a warning to be less intrusive next time you have a party?
• Is it a deliberate play on the fact that A was not invited, designed to make you feel uncomfortable?
• Is it a more dejected expression of A’s loneliness?
All of these are possible interpretations of A’s message