How do you define communication?

I am no gambler but I’d bet that this is a question that you’ve never thought to ask yourself.

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Double or nothing? I’d bet it is more difficult for you to answer than you’d might expect. Don’t worry, you’re not being graded, and like most things in life, the answer actually varies. So let’s start with the basics….

What do you think communication means? Hearing the word gives me a mental image of a group of friends enclosed in a small room with the buzzing noise of several conversations taking place all at the same time. According to The Oxford Dictionary, the literal definition of the word ‘communication’ is the exchanging of information and/or news. The word “communication” derives from the Latin verbcommunicare‘ meaning to share. Share how? Here is where it gets a little tricky because communication may take linguistic or nonlinguistic forms (meaning it may or may not involve a language) and can be executed through various modes.

If you think of the word itself as a tree, the first few branches would be verbal communication and nonverbal communication. In his book, Body Language: 7 Easy Lessons to Master the Silent Language, James Borg reports that human communication consists of 93 percent body language and cues and only 7 percent verbal. [1] I find this particularly amazing. We receive more information during a conversation through what a person is doing rather than through what the person is actually saying. If you’re one of the people that believe talk is cheap, well, it just got cheaper.

Nonverbal communication covers combinations of body language and para-linguistic cues. Para-linguistic cues are a fancy way of referring to gasps and sighs. Other examples of nonverbal communication can include first impressions, posture, movement and body positioning, clothing, gestures, and proximity. By themselves, these individual factors seem insignificant. However, in the combinations of these factors, we interpret information that may intentionally or unintentionally be given. Verbal communication may by influenced by spoken word, or by a person’s individual tone, pitch, and other acoustic properties.

Communication is a complex process that can take hours or mere seconds, and can have a profound impact on someone, or not. Communication can also have meaning and content, or not. How are you ever supposed to truly know what is or is not communication? Well, that all can depend on who you talk to.