“Verbal communication “,” non-verbal communication”, “interpersonal communication”, “didactic communication”, “communication and public relations”… at least 3,700,000 pages of information online on Google. However, in an age when everything is “learnt” on the Internet, the world has forgotten how to communicate. Everything comes to simple phrases of labeling the communication patterns and sorting us as “good communicators”, “weak communicators”, “antisocial persons”, “PR people par excellence” …
I sometimes wonder humbly and understanding this era of speed and artificiality in which we live, and also without claiming to be a communication specialist: what’s left of what should be the role of communication in our society? I can not stay indifferent to the hypocrisy with which my colleagues, friends and collaborators, sometimes business partners, incapable of understanding what really happens around them, nonchalantly argue that “one can do nothing, people do not know how to communicate anymore”.
There are clear definitions of communication and its associated roles – motivation, control and facilitation in decision-making, and also essential communication aspects related to the fact that it employs different people, implies a message that has to be commonly understood and shared, and that it is often symbolic.
If things can be so easily defined, then it really means that for excellent communication there should be simple prescriptions to be learned. And if, in addition, we summarize the communication to the existence of a transmitter and a receiver that, by means of coding and decoding processes, manage to find a channel of communication, then things are even simpler. We will all be able to easily communicate vertically, from top to bottom, from bottom to top, at the same level, taking into account the indispensable social norms. We can easily find ourselves communicating in formal or informal networks (in the last case, with “gossip”, we seem to be the best, statistically speaking, because 10% of communities actively participate in information, of which 75% are true). Last but not least, we will re-create written, verbal or non-verbal communication, by learning how gestures, words, or rhetoric are interpreted beyond what we lay down on paper.
And if all of this adds the present technology, we have the recipe of what perfect communication means, through the acquired technique.
Regardless of the artificiality with which the instinct of communication has been altered in the last decades, fortunately the belief remains in the minds of some, that when you speak of communication, you speak about aspects not often controllable, easy to manipulate and prefabricate:
a) human culture (personal, national or organizational);
b) individual personality influenced by the environment, culture, family, group membership, life experience and heredity, defined by the problem-solving style (intuitive or perceptive), self-confidence, self-control, introversion or extroversion, authority or dogmatism, judgment (“feeling” versus “thinking”);
c) assertive behavior (expression of opinions, thoughts and emotions with respect to others), aggressive (expression of opinions, thoughts, emotions, ignoring the others), or submissive (supporting everyone in the approach to not respect opinions, thoughts expressed by the group and lack of ability to express thoughts, ideas, emotions);
d) internal or external factors to affect communication.
Statistically speaking, 75% of worldwide population is significantly (up to 90%) different from each of us regarding the behavior. Thus, the natural way to communicate is different. Therefore, why are we still stubborn to create communication patterns instead of understanding the importance of each of these natural approaches?
According to an interesting article written by Harvard University, people can naturally find themselves in one of the following profiles:
a) The Cartel Communicator – “Life is Power” – the one who loves figures and facts, is solitary and has a low tolerance to ambiguity in communication, is determined, and from a socio-professional point of view he finds itself in a decision factor, long-term orientated and does not communicate externally but rarely.
b) The Aesthetic Communicator – “Life is Beautiful” – the one who creates and maintains the image, who loves public appearances and systematic and planned communication, is intuitive and charismatic and possesses native abilities of perfect verbal communication.
c) The “Video Game” Communicator – the one excellently communicating as a multimedia game, that has the ability to inspire, create teams and seek the challenge at any cost.
d) The Holistic Communicator – the one who declares and supports the need for change, the one for whom reality is a promise, the one that can be tough and empathetic at the same time, having the power to make difficult decisions and who communicates unforseeable and changeable.
I admit that Harvard University made a very interesting classification here. This tries to define the modern communicator, anchored in a society which asks him to express his beliefs, impressions, feelings in an organized, disciplined, correct and public way.
However, any approach to trying to see beyond any patterns scares me and makes me see a team of androids trying to copy an ideal communication pattern, through education and learning, applied to our society. And I cannot stop asking myself with innocence if you need to know how to communicate, you can learn this, if it is as truthful and natural communication as the one imprinted in our own pattern of behavior in our culture? I have not yet found the answer to these questions, but I think it is worthwhile to try to understand what happens beyond the “social theater” learned by all of us. However, what concerns me are the questions about true communication, whose roots are in our own structure unaltered by communication training, books written by prestigious specialists, outlined by membership in social structures, confined by rules and procedures, of canons and corporate practices.
I remember a Sunday when, after a long and inexcusable absence from what is called “life after the corporation”, I decided I felt the need to enrich myself and bought two tickets to the opera. I rediscovered a different way of communicating both on the stage and in the audience. I think it is worthwhile telling about the one in the audience. A man – old only by appearance, living most likely a tortured and miserable life, was allowed to enter the room, sat shyly in front of us, on a corner of the chair at the end of the row. Before the show started, he turned to us and said smiling, with a perfect and warm voice, “I apologize, beautiful young people, if I’m going to hum along with the music. I know every fragment, because I often listen to <Traviata>. It gives me courage and helps me move on. It’s the way we can communicate with the world at times. I hope you do not mind!” The show ended and I realized that this form of artistic expression is a non-invasive way of communication, that helps you rediscover, does not address you directly, and nevertheless reaches you incredibly personally. Every time I met one of the most beautiful “communicators” that does not have a name, does not appear on TV, does not lead corporations, does not talk, but can touch souls. And my mind has given up labeling and searching into the social life of the “old man.” I gave up thinking that he was smiling because he had learned this is a means of non-verbal communication. I gave up thinking that she was a professor, because that was the only way he could have had such a coherent discourse. I gave up thinking that he certainly wants something from us, otherwise he would not have talked nicely, or that he wanted to stand out, or else he would not have approached us so directly. I just saw a man who communicates in the most beautiful and honest way possible. And his age certainly exonerates him from the risk of having been a student at any high-class communication training!
There are, indeed, innumerable communication barriers: power, assumption, manipulation, indifference and superiority, perceptions, values, different attitudes, language and jargon, interpersonal relationships, personality, psychological distance, mixed messages, selective listening, filtering information, overloading information. But I think nothing is more dangerous than the danger of dehumanization under the pretext of creating successful communication patterns and of our rigorous classification in communicator profiles. Perhaps it’s time we find ourselves in our own form of communication, we feel good with ourselves, so that we can fully communicate and understand others. I may be equally wrong.