Communication is central to human daily life – but still too often underestimated
By: Hannah Gölz
We cannot but communicate. And even if we decide not to communicate, we still communicate something to the people around us – sounds like a paradox, but if one thinks about it a couple of minutes, one sees the truth in it.
Communication includes not only words and verbal expressions, but also non-verbal expression. Facial expressions, gesture and also the absence of any verbal expression have meanings. To remain silent shows ones communication partner that one is not willing to talk to or to get in contact with the other person – it can even show that one deliberately wants to keep distance to this person. There are even some forms of non-verbal communication which are understood all over the world: To put forth ones hand and lifting the thumb shows people that they have done a good job, and waving hands is a gesture of saying goodbye to another person. Smiling shows satisfaction and happiness. These are only some examples of ways of non-verbal communication which are understood worldwide and one can easily keep on extending this never ending list. Similar is true for some simple sounds and words. For instance, the word “o.k.” – thanks to globalization – is nowadays understood in many countries, even if the inhabitants have another native language. So, verbal communication depends on language. This leads to problems regarding the communication of two people from different countries. But even within the same country there can be differences regarding dialect, pronunciation or tribal languages and what is even worse: also non-verbal forms of communication are not all the same in every culture. One could assume that communication only through gestures would be possible – but one has to pay attention to cultural characteristics. Only some basic non-verbal expressions (e.g. smiling) can be understood by people all over the world. A good example with which to explain this is the following cultural difference: While in European countries no one cares about being shown the sole of a shoe, this is a high offense in Arabic countries!
To sum up, one first marked characteristic of communication is – no matter if it is verbal or non-verbal: Communication is a highly complex field in which many problems can occur! And although communication is such a central thing – in everyday life as well as in business life, many people do not see its importance and the problems which can occur because of bad communication or a lack of knowledge regarding cultural characteristics. Communication makes peaceful co-existence possible. It has made globalization easy, it is central to the successful of organizations, and the most banal point to mention is: the complex system of communication distinguishes human beings from any other creature as during evolution the human race has established the most advanced system of communication. In the last couple of years, experts have also realized the importance of communication for successful organizations – since then, the field of communication got more and more popular. While in the past one might have had the possibility of sitting through some basic communication courses at university, it is nowadays possible, to study a whole program called “communication studies” or “communication management” – and just as flexible as language is so different can also be the name for a program in communication science. The field of communication is even too complex to put it all together into one program and this is the reason why different universities highlight different aspects in their offered program. Another reason for the existence of so many different titles is, from my point of view, that the field of communication is still on its way to establish itself to an own field of research. And everyone who is interested and wants to do so has the possibility to help to push this field forward and form it in some way, so it will find its way for its future development. Communication is more complex than many people think and there are still a lot of questions to be answered.
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