Introduction to Communication: What Communication Is and How We Use It

It seems such a simple concept, communication. When we look at the definition as relayed by Merriam-Webster, we find that the concept of communication is, in fact, quite simple:

“com·​mu·​ni·​ca·​tion | \ kə-ˌmyü-nə-ˈkā-shən  \

Definition of communication

1a: a process by which information is exchanged between individuals through a common system of symbols, signs, or behavior”

Other definitions by other sources talk about the act of transferring something from one place to another (as in communicating a disease or moving supplies across the country). Animals, plants, even our organs communicate by sending information over prescribed pathways (vocal, neurological, or other) using a series of signals.


All the Ways We Communicate Throughout the Day

Think about how many ways you send and receive information throughout the day. Apart from the obvious spoken means of communicating, we have sent and received messages using symbols (words, emojis, and other written forms of communication) and signals (expressions, body position & motion, and our voices); we have used our eyes, ears, vocal chords, minds, and bodies; we have communicated by sending and receiving conscious messages and unconscious messages; by being present or absent (physically or emotionally).

Think about all the texts and e-mails you send before noon. On your way to work, you have registered (and perhaps responded to) the messages of advertisers, artists, actors, and anchormen/women. When you get to work, you have a mountain of e-mails to tackle, phone calls to make, meetings to attend, clients to service. You communicate on a business level, and perhaps a personal level, with your co-workers and clients. There are communications via phone, text, or e-mail with family and friends.

This is just a cursory list. You can continue to add to it for quite some time without repeating yourself.

The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same

So, this need we humans have to communicate may have its origins in the need to survive in the harsh elements of a Neanderthal life (“Look out! That T-Rex is about to charge!”), which we have evolved to fit our ever-increasingly sophisticated life (“Get outta the road, you bum! Do you want to get run over?”), yet there clearly is another element to human communication that is essential to survival.

For social beings, connection with others is critical for survival. Research shows that isolation from society, even in social animals, creates all sorts of disruptions to the system’s functional balance which can even lead to death if the isolation persists. This disruption also occurs emotionally, leading to depression, dementia, and other emotional states of decline.

Hope in the Darkness

On the flip side, having that connection with others through the many forms of communication available to us increases our physical and emotional health. Improving the health of the relationships we have in our lives improves our lives exponentially.

This is encouraging news.

This reversible aspect on the effects of a lack of connection or of a poor-quality connection lets us know that we can change our circumstances and develop connections that are healthy and provide us with the love and support we all crave.

As we move along on our journey to aCE-ing the fine art of effective communication, we’ll delve more deeply into the ins and out of the nuances of human communication. For now, it’s important to understand the basics of what communication is and how we use it every day.

Things to Think About This Week

Being the teacher at heart that I am, I will inevitably assign some sort of work for us to do during our time away from each other. Take these exercises as you please. Just remember that the more effort you put into the process and the more honest you are during the process, the better and more permanent the results of the process will be.

So, during this coming week,

  • Start paying attention to all the ways you send and receive messages to and from the world around you.
  • Start paying attention to the types of communication that you use most frequently and why you use those particular forms.
  • Start paying attention to the means of communication with which you are most comfortable. You might e-mail folks all day long but at your core, you are more of a face-to-face communicator so really think about this.
  • Start paying attention to the types of communication that you can’t stand. Again, you may communicate in one form all the time but deep down this form is excruciating to you. My friend, for example here and in the exercise above, has to communicate with clients via e-mail all day, yet writing of any kind is an agonizing experience for him.
  • Finally, start paying attention to how the other people in your life – family, friends, co-workers – communicate. By becoming aware of how we communicate for better or for worse, and how others do likewise, gives us insight into what works well, what doesn’t, and why it does or doesn’t work. Once we know this, we can begin to figure out how to make it better.

Share Your Thoughts

If you wish to share your insights with the community, please leave a comment below or send a message through the contact page (this is a great place to practice  and improve your effective communication skills).

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