# Information Theory as it applies to social skills

I was just reading again Claude Shannon’s “A Mathematical Theory of Communication”. It seems to me that there is an optimum amount of entropy within communication to a given interlocutor. The clearness of your interlocutor’s thinking represents the noise in the channel, and therefore how much information can be condensed into your speech. Its also obvious that you can make social skills less mystifying by considering Shannon’s mathematical model of source/transmitter/noise/receiver/sink properly. When managers tell me to use the right level of abstraction in my speech, they are simply pointing out that my listeners may not have the right decoder in their receiver, and I simply cannot get across to them information with that high entropy/information.

I’ve been challenged in this area for quite awhile, and so it is perhaps revolutonary to figure out this way to model interpersonal communication. It is suitably geeky to make it clearer to me how to think about such communication. It’s not very different, it’s just that the sink, both within me and others, is ‘true understanding’, and the noise, transmitter and receiver are all part of our mental apparatus.

The baffling notion that I must dumb myself down to discuss then becomes merely a matter of choosing the appropriate set of symbols, and encoders/decoders, for a specific conversation, which is also a channel. Even if the choice of language and abstraction is still done by intuition, there is at least now a fundamental theory that applies.