As a social species we depend on our ability to communicate. Our life and health quite literally depends on it. If we are held “incommunicado”, we will suffer emotionally, cognitively and physiologically. Of course, communication serves a much wider range of goals then just survival, including learning, problem-solving, building and maintaining relationships, and a host of other endeavors.
We communicate through symbols; spoken language, gestures, facial expressions, drawings, writing, and body-language to name a few. We are hardwired to look for all forms of “body-communication", in order to determine the intent of another person. This hardwiring is most powerful in the older parts of our brain. These brain structures will pick up on information long before our cortex –the newer part of the brain- has had a chance to analyze incoming information. Sometimes, the cortex is simultaneously fed contradictory information through other channels such a speech, possibly leading to miss-interpretation or confusion about what is really happening. For example; we’ve all encountered situations in which a speaker –some politicians come to mind- is claiming a certain position while his or her body-language is making us feel a bit off-kilter. If we are attentive to these signals it will prompt us to examine more closely if what is being communicated through spoken language is congruent with what is being said through body-language.
Our relationships depend on a sufficiently adequate level of effective communication. Given the endless number of variables that may interfere with the effectiveness of our communications, from language barriers, to environmental noise, to incongruent body- language, cultural differences and many more interfering factors, it is quite amazing that we tend to do a fair job reaching our communication goals. Unfortunately, often we don’t. We see the consequences of miss-communication most readily in our intimate relationships, but they actually happen all the time, even if we are not always aware of it because our communication partner may not give us direct feedback about how or what message was received.
Time and again, research shows that the quality and even quantity of our interactions impact our health, wellbeing, longevity, creativity and productivity. It seems obvious that skilled communication is a prerequisite for healthy and abundant relationships, and success in virtually every aspect of our lives.