[Viewpoint] It’s the communication, stupid!

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[Viewpoint] It’s the communication, stupid!

A man received a phone call in his office. He said, “Thank you, but I am unable to travel there.” The person at the other end of the line was puzzled, but he hung up the phone. The phone rang repeatedly in the office for several days, but he did not answer. It was in 1965, and the call was from Sweden informing Professor Richard Feynman that he had been chosen as the recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physics.

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences requested his attendance at the award ceremony, but Feynman, who was known for his stubborn and eccentric character, refused to answer the phone. He did not want to attend the ceremony because it would mean sparing his valuable time for research.

What would you do if you are the person in charge of persuading Feynman on behalf of the Nobel Foundation? Would you continue to call and solicit or even make a vain promise to send a supersonic jet? Or would you give up persuading the eccentric scientist?

The problem was solved by the wife. Mrs. Feynman simply told her husband, buried in research in his lab, “What should we do now? Newspapers and television reporters would all gather in front of our house to interview the scholar who turned down the Nobel Prize. You won’t be able to concentrate on your research. They would stay around for days!” Feynman then changed his mind and decided to accept the honor in person, and both the foundation and the professor were satisfied with the outcome.

Communication is the process of finding a middle ground that both parties find agreeable through persuasion. Communication has been the topic of discussion in politics, economy, society and culture. However, communication is often misunderstood as “conveying my opinion and will to others.” So a lack of communication is considered to be failing to deliver what you think.

An experiment showed a surprising result. A person who sends a message would only convey 50 percent of what he intended to say even if he makes an extra effort to make himself clear. The listener only understands 35 percent of the message. So 50 percent of the message is lost from the sender’s side, and 15 percent of the message is not processed on the recipient’s side. The delivered message can be different from what the speaker originally intended to say.

Many political agendas, corporate announcements and arguments of social groups have conveyed only 50 percent of their messages, and the people have only understood 35 percent. It is hard to convey your opinion, but that’s not the end of the problem. Communication is not complete until the message is understood and accepted. The key of communicating is accommodating each other. As Feynman’s case demonstrates, communication is based on making accommodations that both sides can agree upon.

A few days ago, a revision of the Distribution Industry Development Act, which contains regulations on “super supermarkets,” or SMMs, was announced. However, it took seven months for the ruling and opposition parties to process the bill that had been drafted in April, and over 200 SSMs sprang up. They are all over the place now, and there has been much media coverage on the anger and frustration of merchants in traditional markets and of small shop owners.

I don’t feel assured that the bill has been finally processed. The hope is already dashed, and only an uncomfortable future awaits small business owners. Politics demands highly advanced communication skills to address various parties.

Corporate giants might criticize the move as a paternalistic policy, but officials should have sought a solution both parties find acceptable.

But it’s not too late. We should start looking for solutions and ideas to give hope to traditional markets and mom-and-pop shops. In October, the Sinjeong Market in Ulsan was chosen as the best of the 1,500 markets in the country and received a presidential award. There are eight super supermarkets within a 5-kilometer (3.1-mile) radius of the Sinjeong Market. However, the merchants are working together to create a busy, bustling marketplace, establishing a college for merchants with help from the Agency for Traditional Market Administration.

Neighborhood markets should be a cultural brand. Smaller traders and manufacturers also need protection. Let’s hope for a law that encourages mutual cooperation and growth. Let’s not give up here. If politicians really work for the people, they need to think hard. If we fail to communicate, we will all suffer. It is not an issue limited to traditional markets. It applies to all of us.

*The writer is CEO of the UCO Marketing Group.

By Yoo Jae-ha
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