Communication is the art of giving and receiving information. There must be at least two participants in any act of communication. There are three methods of communication: verbal (speak and hear), written (write and read) and nonverbal (express and interpret). Some experts add a fourth, visual communication such as art (express and interpret).
Today, because of technology, we have many more means of communication than we used to have, but technology has certainly changed the effectiveness of communication, making it more available, but sometimes less effective.
Years ago, people spent more time communicating face-to-face. Families spent more time communicating around the table, as they played games or while taking walks together. Time was spent sitting on the front porch or in the back yard, just talking. We would visit our neighbors (yes, we actually knew our neighbors), visit family members and friends.
Most Sunday afternoons, after church, were spent visiting with family and friends. If people were not close enough to communicate face-to-face, they either spoke over the phone or through writing letters. Adults and children were not involved in as many individual activities as they seem to be today. This gave more opportunity for spending time together, which fostered better communication.
I believe there is something of great value that is missed with some of our newer means of communication. So, much of communication today takes place via emails, texts or social media posts. Many of the younger generation would rather text than talk on the phone.
Any means of written communication can be so easily misinterpreted – feelings get hurt, nuances are missed, people are misunderstood. This often happens because of the lack of non-verbal communication. Non-verbal communication is the transmission of messages through eye contact, facial expressions, gestures, posture, tone and pitch of one’s voice.
When communicating with someone face-to-face, each of you receives more information from the communicator’s non-verbal communication than the actual words being said. In fact, when the two contradict each other, the listener will usually go with what is being expressed through non-verbal communication. Years ago, there was a study published by Professor Mehrabian that came up with the 7% rule. He concluded that communication is only 7% verbal and 93 percent non-verbal (55% body language and 38% tone of voice).
Other researchers and professors disagreed with the stark difference in these percentages.
Nevertheless, no one can negate the huge role that non-verbal cues play in effective communication. These cues are not present in even the most expressive written communication (even when using those cute emojis).
I am in no way negating the importance of these other means of communication. In fact, I’m sure we can all agree how thankful we are for what they have offered during this time of social distancing that we have recently experienced. Families living apart can still communicate. Some people are able to continue working while at home. We can still communicate with our friends. We can meet with groups of people through Zoom and other meeting apps. We can still worship and feel a part of our church family. But haven’t you noticed through this time of social distancing, what is missing when we can’t get together face-to-face? I know I have.
I believe that through this period of “sheltering at home,” we have learned to better communicate as a family. We take more walks together. We sit on our front porch and talk to people as they walk by. We have time to talk while we eat our meals together at home. We have played more games as a family, put together puzzles, done craft projects, planted gardens and worked on projects together. Hopefully, families have grown closer and we have all learned to appreciate how vital face-to-face encounters are in good communication.
Let’s not forget this as we venture back into our “new normal” routines. Let’s continue to spend more time with family, while at the same time appreciating the ability to start interacting face to face with others.
Do you want to continue practicing better communication? Here are a few strategies:
– Be aware of how much time you spend texting rather than talking.
– When you are communicating face-to-face, be aware of those non-verbal cues and gear your responses accordingly.
– Be aware of your own non-verbal communication and how it affects those around you.
– Be aware of how much you talk and how often you listen.
– Make sure when things “go back to normal” that it is a better normal and that you will continue to find ways to communicate and spend time with your family.
– When someone is talking to you, stop and listen. If you cannot express back to them what they are trying to communicate, you are not really listening.
– When you are about to send a text or email, ask yourself first if it would be better to talk to the person instead.
– Eat more meals at home together without any device on while you are eating. Just talk about your day while you eat.
– Thank God every day for the ability to communicate.
Communication requires accurate expression and active listening, not just listening to answer, but listening to understand. A wise young man once said “The key to communication is love.”