Saturday, June 19, 2010

Communication Theory

Seeing couples I am still surprised at how much they assume that what they say is what is being heard. Men and women commonly insist that their message is clear and simple when nothing could be further from the truth.

Communication Theory developed precisely to address the inherent complexity involved in 'transmitting information' from one human to another.

An early model came from radio communication. Here there is a sender and a receiver. There is a screen in front of a sender and a screen in front of the receiver with a line between the two screens. "Interference" in communication can occur between a sender and their screen (whatever apparatus or meaning ascribed to words and communication processes) , the actual line of communication or context, the screen or the receiver and the space of understanding between the screen and the receiver.

In actual communication this is seen in the interpretation each individual will place on a particular word or symbol. Further there's the 'meaning' individuals emotionally ascribe to certain words or symbols. Communication isn't simply the actual words used but the non verbal expressions that accompany the words.

The deep sadness of the outdated court systems of the world is that they live in the 'age of rationalism' in a post modern society. The emphasis that the legal system places on 'words' without consideration of meaning or the context keeps people mired in the dark ages of communication. All 'verbal' communication is coupled with 'non verbal' communication and has contextual components.

When a person in a couple says "I love you" while grimacing it is a wholly different communication from an "I love you" with a smile.

Memory is always a confounding feature in communication as well because what is remembered even within a short span of communication by each member changes with each unfolding bit of information.

Tone is as important if not more important than facial expression. People literally growl, snarl and whine in their tones and this changes even the simplest communication into something else.

Sadly people rarely know what their 'non verbal' communication is saying and how this may be cancelling out or exaggerating what they are saying with words.

The difficulty with the court scenario is that the 'non verbal' communication trumps the 'verbal' communication as evidenced by the example of a woman pointing a gun at a man while saying "I love you". Which one would be considered the more important communication. Yet this very on – off over ride mechanism works within the communication and alters whatever is 'transcribed'.

The courts continue to use 'stenographers' from a century ago pre film and video. Even the sports shows have modernized to the recognition of the need for 'rapid playback' to assess what really happened.

Psychopaths and sociopaths are the most adept at manipulations and use their non verbal behavior in the most amazing ways that show up best on a video screen playback but literally 'flash by' like a sleight of hand in an actual conversation.

Normal people rarely have these skills but 30 years ago video screens were part of the standard marriage and family therapies because people in the 'front lines' of communication often simply couldn't see the trees for the forest. The courts have toyed with television but are resistant to the video playback scenario.

Anyone who does study any communication theory will quickly lose their arrogance about how clear anyone is and quickly see how much of government and legal systems perpetuate their anachronisms solely because they serve forces other than the 'truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth".

Truth in communication is something truly beautiful but not at all 'simple' in the 'simplest sense'.

"Who says what to whom in which channel to what effect" is what communication theory is truly about.

Understanding some of what has been learned in the last decades scientifically does wonders for one's own humility, at the very least.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

nothing is more obvious

relationships are complicated

so is communications

good thoughts bill