"What is communicated is not what is said but what is heard, and what is heard is determined in large measure by what the hearer needs or wants to hear."
This bit of wisdom, originally written more than 30 years ago and meant for those who preach the Sunday homily, continues to be an important bit of wisdom throughout the field of communication. Generally, every communique, oral or written, is filtered through the needs, perspective and experience of the receiver.
Just read through the comment thread following a news article, or listen to the feedback following a campaign rally. You will invariably wonder if respondents read what you read, or heard what you heard.
Have you ever sent an email to several different people only to have one or more of them completely misunderstand what you were trying to say? One may suspect your intentions, another may take it as a personal affront, and another may ignore it completely, believing it has nothing to do with him or her.
To communicate effectively, it is essential to have an understanding of your audience, whether your audience is a parish congregation, a small faith community, the office staff or a classroom full of students, remembering that "the way we interpret the world ... determines the way we relate to it."
Quotes are from "Fulfilled in Your Hearing: The Homily in the Sunday Assembly," USCCB, 1982