An introduction to a new perspective on Communication Studies
.. By Panos Panagou
Introduction We humans are social beings. We may be able to survive and exist alone but we develop and thrive in groups and social circles. All species naturally communicate amongst them, somehow. Our overdeveloped frontal cortex gave us the ability for complex logical thinking, language, and perception of time, amongst other skills, and made human communication the most advanced of all species. On the other hand, our newly found mega-brains created complex societies and an often chaotic world. In this kind of environment, so far removed from basic Hunter-Gatherer societies, the need for effective communication is bigger than ever. Our intention in this article is to examine how this remarkable human ability works and what we can do to improve it.
- Who is the Messenger ? Who is communicating? Who are you, really? How would you describe yourself to somebody else? What differentiates you from the next person? What motivates you? What gives you “pain” or “pleasure”? What are your questions about reality? … Purpose? … Existence? … Are you consciously following a particular path in life? Who, really, chose your path? Do you have a plan for your life? How are you connecting with others? Are you living randomly or strategically? There is not really a right or wrong answer to any of these questions. End of course, some may not even be relevant to your life experience. But if some do, and you cannot find a satisfactory answer by yourself, you may want to share them with others and see how they react or respond.
- What is your message ? Any of the questions we mentioned above, existential or not, may be triggering some of your messages to others. It may also be anything much lighter, even trivial, that you feel like sharing. An experience, an observation, a feeling, an intuition, a memory, an idea. Our need to communicate, I believe, is based primarily in our need to share our thoughts with others, rather than a need to obtain useful information. Another part of our communication could be inquiring about the status and circumstances of others. It can be small talk or a show of genuine interest. We are always asking our friends, or colleagues, or anybody we come across, how they are, how their family is, or what is going on in their lives. All this relates to our effort to understand ourselves by understanding others, but it is also triggered by our inbuilt curiosity about people … and anything else around us.
- Where is your voice? This question relates to the means of communication but also to the degree that we are using them to communicate. Which are your dominant senses? Are you using your voice/speech to communicate? Are you more confident with the written word? Are you using video or audio recordings? … Are you a visual person? … Auditory? … Kinaesthetic? Does smell or taste play any part in your communication? Are you intuitive? Are you telepathic? Do you trust your “sixth sense”,…or your “gut feelings” ? Again, some of these ideas may not be relevant to you, or even familiar, but may be playing a part in your connection with the world around you, and for this reason may be worth exploring further.
- Who is listening? The world is listening. Or rather hearing.. but not listening. Millions of people are swimming in an indistinguishable soup of multi-sensory noise. The media, social or “anti-social”, are constantly competing for our attention. Countless voices create a tsunami of often mindless chatter. An army of desperate, unknown, over-optimistic , “influencers ”, are trying to get us to “like” them, or to sell us things we don’t like and we don’t need. And, of course, there are thousands of genuine stars out there, worth listening to and acting on their ideas. So ,… who is your audience? Who really needs to listen to your communication? The truth is that, whether your message is a simple sharing of feelings, a practical question, or the announcement of a major life-changing project, the purity of your intention and the clarity of your “voice” are the most important elements. If this is the case then there is an audience for you out there. If you are determined and consistent, in the long term, you will assemble your own tribe of enthusiastic followers.
- Active listening and reflection. The question here is: – How are you listening? One of my teachers was saying: – If you don’t pay attention you pay with pain! Well …maybe not exactly pain, but you may be missing out on something very important. The truth is he did have a point. How can we discern, in the middle of all the chaos that sometimes surrounds us, what is really important or useful? Maybe we should see our “listening mechanisms” as a muscle that needs some systematic training. The second question is … How interested are you in other people? Would you say you have an understanding of the “human condition”? How interested are you even in the workings of your own internal world? If you have a genuine interest in these matters, and you do engage in active listening when people speak, you will inevitably deepen your understanding of others and of your own self. This kind of reflection will help you avoid confusion and clarify your own communication with the world.
- How can your message change the world? “There is greatness in you !” says the great teacher Les Brown. Sometimes it may not exactly feel this way. We may find ourselves trapped in unproductive ways of interpreting the confusing messages we receive from the world. We may be seeing black clouds of despair, that no rays of hope can penetrate to reach us and lighten us up. We may feel disempowered, worthless, unable to move forward with our lives, let alone help others. What is the way out of this? it may be that we have to dig inside us and connect with our true values and principles. These could, or better should, guide our behaviour towards, and our communication with, others. This is why I strongly believe that, in the frame of this article, your number one quality is your integrity. Even the most untrained mind can instinctively sense when a communicator has no integrity. Even if it concerns something trivial, we should always operate from an honest heart. This is easier said than done. Or ancient instinct to “fit in” and be accepted by society, or just our circle, often makes us falsify our messages about who we really are, what we believe, what we do. The problem here is that , whether true or false, if you have a strong presence, your messages will inspire or influence others. So my suggestion is to go behind whatever “survival mask” you may be operating behind, find your truth, and communicate it to the world. If you can do this your message will reach, awaken, reinforce the “core truth” of your audience. This is how we change the world!
- Your life is your message As we said in the previous chapter people that receive your message on one hand will process it intellectually but at the same time will react to it instinctively. Let me give you two examples: If you are a meditation teacher and you always come across restless and agitated people will not buy your course. Or …If you’re a personal trainer and you are overweight and always short of breath, it will not be so easy to find clients. To put it in a simple way,.. Are you walking your talk? Are you doing what you are preaching? My point is twofold … If we have something important to communicate, or even if our aim is just to connect with people and create meaningful relationships …1). We need to become aware that, especially with multi-sensory communication like face-to-face discussion or video, we are transmitting simultaneously in a variety of ways. Through our voice, our facial expressions, our posture, our movement. Even the way we are dressed and the location of the communication play a role. Our audience may even be picking up some more subtle messages, like our “energy”, our self-perceived social status, or our real position in the hierarchy of the human-animal pack. 2). No matter how experienced or not we are, in observing the above, we definitely need to improve in order for our communication to be effective. This requires a long term, honest, self-observation, and inviting and being open to truthful criticism by trusted friends, associates, and mentors. Only this way our life and our message will be congruent and we may have the desired positive effect on others.
Conclusion What is your message to the world? Have you found it? Maybe yes, …maybe no, or not at the moment. You may just enjoy meeting and connecting with people. That is ok. The fact is that you are almost constantly engaged in some form of communication with the world and my suggestion is that deciding to improve your communication skills will definitely improve/help every-thing you do in life. Here are five things you could do:
1). Decide to embark on a learning journey to becoming a better communicator. Invest some of your time in thinking , in introspection. Start writing down your thoughts. Just this habit will greatly increase the clarity and efficiency of your communication.
2). Enrol yourself in a public-speaking course. Watch relevant videos on YouTube and take notes.
3). Get in the habit of actively listening when others are speaking.
4). Find ways to experiment with video and audio. Smartphones have free, very good recording software, that even professionals use.
5). Join a public speaking group, or meet up, or Toastmasters International.
Enjoy the journey.