Finnish economist and parliamentarian Osmo Antero Wiio framed these rueful principles of human communication in 1978:
- Communication usually fails, except by accident.
- If communication can fail, it will.
- If communication cannot fail, it still most usually fails.
- If communication seems to succeed in the intended way, there’s a misunderstanding.
- If you are content with your message, communication certainly fails.
- If a message can be interpreted in several ways, it will be interpreted in a manner that maximizes the damage.
- There is always someone who knows better than you what you meant with your message.
- The more we communicate, the worse communication succeeds.
- The more we communicate, the faster misunderstandings propagate.
- In mass communication, the important thing is not how things are but how they seem to be.
- The importance of a news item is inversely proportional to the square of the distance.
- The more important the situation is, the more probable you had forgotten an essential thing that you remembered a moment ago.
Writer Jukka Korpela offered two corrolaries: “If nobody barks at you, your message did not get through” and “Search for information fails, except by accident.”