My interpretation of communication

A drawing of a cartoon man pointing upwards

Hey there! This post was written in 2007, so it may contain information that is no longer accurate or thoughts that no longer reflect how I feel. As human beings, we're constantly learning and bettering ourselves through experiences and interactions with the world and each other.

I keep posts like this around for historical purposes and to prevent link rot, so please keep this in mind as you're reading.

— Cory

There are a lot of people that I enjoy interacting with on a daily basis. Some are friends, some are family, some are random strangers who I've never met before and may never meet again. Others are ones that I've only met through text in an IM window or messages through an online community.

Communication is an essential part of human intelligence. Most of us can communicate in one way or another, if not by speech then by signal, sound, or feeling. We subconsciously measure people's reactions to the things we do and say and we adjust our tone, our sincerity, and sometimes our entire message accordingly.

If we feel that the other person isn't going to receive the message the way we want them to, we wait for a more appropriate time to tell them. Based on their mood and our knowledge of their beliefs and feelings, we wait for the right moment to sneak in and present the message in a way that we think the receiver will accept it.

This happens all the time to everybody, whether we think about it or not. It's the way we communicate based entirely on our instinct. Other animals do it, as well. The way I see it, if something is smart enough to interact with other living things then it's subject to the same concept I'm describing here.

The problem is that when we interfere with what we want to say exactly when we want to say it we give in to fear, selfishness, and dishonesty. We fear that our thoughts, opinions, and ideas will be rejected. We become selfish because, instead of laying all the cards on the table, we strategically wait for the right moment to express our thoughts in an effort to maximize our personal gain. We sacrifice honesty by ignoring the way we feel, or at least by not expressing those feelings when we probably should.

Some may argue that, by expressing ourselves so openly, we are still being selfish because we neglect to consider others' feelings. This is a catch-22 at best, but wouldn't it be more effective for everyone to know what other people really thought?  With nothing to hide, no communication breakdown, people would know when to help others, when to hurt others, and when to worry about things and when to leave them alone.

Think government. Think relationships. Think your own family. Everyone I know has at least one thing that they can tell me but can't tell someone in their own family. Why hide things and live in secrecy when you could just as easily shove it in the world's face and live contently with who you are and how you feel?

But expressing ourselves so readily and honestly can put us in a bad position because we may offend somebody. We may introduce one of our own weaknesses to someone else. We may open up the door to controversy. For some reason, these are bad things.

In essence, we are all individual players in the largest battle that mankind has ever faced. We are at war with ourselves and everyone around us, simply because we can't communicate with each other. We can't accept what other people have to say for what it's worth.

Fundamentally, there is no solution to our inability to communicate effectively. Even if there were, with hundreds of languages and billions of people in the world we could never apply it effectively. It's really kind of sad if you think about it.

We will never be able to say what we want to say when we want to say it. In truth, it's not always appropriate. You would never tell your girlfriend that she looks terrible when she's already crying. Of course it would add insult to injury, but we shelter people for the time being whenever we feel like they can't handle the truth. Essentially, we soften ourselves up that way and it becomes an expectation. And maybe thats alright.

There really isn't a point that I'm trying to get at. This is my analysis of human communication from one person to another and the problems it creates throughout our global society. I believe that communication is the root of most of the world's problems and, if used intelligently, could solve a lot of the pandemonium it creates.

Maybe it's as simple as a few fundamental concepts. If everyone told at least one other person something positive everyday, maybe we wouldn't be so negative all the time. Then again, maybe we would. But if I could tell every person in the world a few of the very basic things that I've learned in life, I think I would start here:

Don't send these to anyone. In fact, I'd much rather you say nothing at all until someone you care about really needs it. Not randomly, but at a time when they will actually understand the message and see the power and meaning behind it. This doesn't belong in a chain email or on a cubicle wall. It belongs in our hearts.

If we live with a few of these basic principles in mind, we'll all understand each other a little bit better—and isn't that the whole point of communication?