Communication goes beyond looks and assumptions


I believe that it will be fair to say that all if not most communicators encounter barriers to communication in two common areas: looks and assumptions. You might be surprised that bad listening skills is not listed here. Well, actually it is. The main components of bad listening skills is actually due to “filters”, which reduce the listener’s receptibility to the content of the speaker’s speech. This is caused by assumptions made by the listeners due to cultural and life differences.

Looks is not a common factor mentioned in books on communications. I often wonder why it is so. Is it a sensitive topic to be steered clear of by most authors (since there’s often an assertion in recent literature that interviewers tend to favour interviewees who look better)? On the contrary, I will like to discuss this topic since there’s also the adage that “silence means consent”. By not acknowledging the fact that looks do not play a part in being a good communicator, we are actually agreeing with the abovementioned assertion (which I don’t).

I believe that a good communicator need not have to look gorgeous or stunning. However, it is important that communicators are able to not judge someone’s character and personality from their looks. To a certain degree, a person’s facial features and disposition does give another an insight into his or her personality. But this is never the complete picture. It is only through in-depth discussions with the individuals that they can be assessed for their character and personality. Ironically, this is often an area that an introvert fares better than an extrovert.

There are many examples in history that illustrate this fact, one of which can be found in one of the four Chinese classics “Romance of the Three Kingdoms”, whereby a talented individual Pang Tong is despised by others due to his looks and shabby dressing. He is rejected by one ruler, after which he was almost rejected by the Shu ruler Liu Bei (if not for one of Liu Bei’s adviser who told the ruler that he is talented).  As can be observed, this is one of the examples which illustrate the fact that even discerning rulers made the mistake of passing judgment based on one’s looks.

It is important to note that talents can be found in all individuals regardless of their appearances. It’s just that different talents are found in different individuals. This is why it is crucial that individuals are placed in the right jobs so that they are able to excel. And this is where career coaches come in.

History has also shown us that passing judgement before verification of facts can be serious. Friendships have been severed and businesses have been lost due to assumptions. This mistake is often committed when one hears news from the grapevine and takes it as the absolute truth. When we were young, some of us used to play this game whereby a group of players line up in a straight line, one in front of another.  The lead player will subsequently pass a message to the person behind him, and the message will be transmitted right down to the last guy behind. The final message will often be the distorted version of the original message. It is unfortunate that most of us remembered the game but failed to remember the lesson behind it, that messages can get distorted or even lost when transmitted through individuals. Therefore, it’s best to get information straight from the horse’s mouth, as this is the only way to both verify the acquired information and to reduce / eliminate the harm of making assumptions and misunderstandings.

If a communicator is able to make the effort to take note of the two abovementioned factors, he or she might still not be the best communicator. However, I am sure that he or she will be among the best.


2 thoughts on “Communication goes beyond looks and assumptions

  1. Your comment that different individuals are all talented, but in different areas is the same message I try to pass along to my third-grade students. Whenever a student is feeling “down” due to having difficulty understanding a certain subject, I take care to be sure the child doesn’t accept feeling “stupid.” I show them that with enough effort and practice, anything can be mastered, and point out they have many other strengths which others do not have.

    Dedicated Elementary Teacher Overseas


  2. We will never escape the “first five minutes” of a personal encounter where impressions are made for good or ill.

    My opinion is that AFTER that first five minutes, it is up to all of us to make the personal encounter become one of mutual regard & genuineness.

    Marilyn J. Tellez, M.A.
    Certified Career & Job Transition Coach


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