An old lady had some washable wallpaper put up in her kitchen. Some months later she contacted the firm that had made the wallpaper and in some confusion asked, ‘How do I take the wallpaper down in order to wash it?’ The story may be familiar to you, but it is also supposed to be true and is a clear example of a complete failure of communication. One may further say, as did John Garnett, the Director of the Industrial Society, in the BBC television series ‘Office’, that it is often not failures of communication that lead to conflict but the fact that no communication takes place at all. We live in a complex culture in which we depend on forms of co-operation that make increasing demands on the use of words. If we are to continue to survive and grow in industrial communities, then we must learn more about the part that words play in this co-operation and co-ordination. We shall then be able to find much needed ways to communicate effectively and also we might have a clearer idea of what we really mean by communication.
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