When a white flag is raised in the midst of a battle, it means that the other group has given up and wants to surrender. A red light in a traffic signal means “stop” for those who are behind the wheels. A simple nod means a yes from those who are being asked. When a dog wags its tail and barks at someone, it means that he is being recognized. A skull and two bones crossed in a product label means that it is poisonous. Signs and symbols are not printed for decoration purposes. Signals were not designed in the name of arts. They are meant to communicate important messages and vital information.
I see communication not on the symbolic perspective but on the higher level of understanding. Yes, I believe that communication has to be as simple and concise as possible. But we have to understand that there are messages that cannot be effectively transmitted by means of words. I find it very impractical to flash the words “stop” and “go” on crossroads to communicate the traffic flow, instead of using traffic lights. The soldiers may find it difficult to yell, get out of their hiding place and then raise their hands to signal their surrender. To raise a white flag is easier and safer. I am not trying to promote symbolic communication. What I am trying to point out is that communication must be taken not only on the perspective of mere signaling and transmission of information, but on the level of understanding what is being communicated. It is in this level where communication lays a border line between basic and simple.
Communication is basic. It is through communication where we interact with one another. It is through communication where we gain and share an idea. It is basically through communication where our thoughts and feelings are expressed. It is because whether we like it or not, we need to communicate. It is our nature as humans to communicate and interact with other human beings, with nature and even with the super naturals, regardless of our culture and belief. We may see communication as simple as ABC or as simple as red, green and yellow signal lights. It may be as simple as giving instructions to stop and go. Behind the traffic lights, everyone is instructed to obey and be organized. But more than these, people has to understand that traffic lights are for the safety of both the pedestrians and the motorists.
What differentiates innocence and ignorance is matter of a fine line. It is this fine line where I find it important to see to it that communication really works. Innocence lies on matters of understanding. Ignorance on the other hand lies on matters of information and education. When a baby cries, he is trying to convey something to whoever he hears him. He might want to say that he is hungry, he feels uncomfortable with his clothes or he wants to be carried out of his crib. Out of his innocence, crying is the only way he knows where he can express his feelings. It is the responsibility of the parent or the guardian to understand what the baby is trying to convey. As the baby grows, it is through constant communication with the people around him that he learns, one by one, the proper way to tell what he wants. As he grows, his level of understanding increases. It is through communication where he learns and discovers different things. It is through exchanges of thoughts and ideas with other people that he learns to understand, and not to remain being understood.
If a new employee does not know how to use a fax machine or when your grandma does not know what Ipod, Wi-fi and MP4 means, I find it a matter of lack of information. Again, it is only through communication where they can both learn and be brought out from the cage of ignorance. In these situations, I find it very important to look into one of the main purposes of communication- to educate. It is not enough to know that that is a fax machine. The employee must learn to ask how does it work, what it is for and how valuable it is in the company’s operation. Humans need not only learn how to express themselves but also to learn how to get help and help others. If your grandma only reads, watches television and interact with the younger generation, she will be able to learn about Ipod, Wi-fi and MP4. Communication teaches people the whats, whys, whos and hows of different generation. Communication must teach us not to stick to what we know but go beyond for personal development. A higher level of communication does not only inform but educates.
I also find communication as a make or break factor of any relationship. Whether it is a business relationship, a family relationship or an ordinary friendship, communication goes beyond the importance of a business partnership contract. It goes beyond the importance of a marriage certificate and an engagement ring. Business partners who work sixteen hours a day with papers works could hardly come up with a good decision than those who regularly holds even informal conversations and make regular reports. Couples, who shout at each other every time they have misunderstandings and slam the door after, could hardly settle problems than those who learn to calm down and listen. Partners who always hang the phone up could hardly stay together longer than those who know how to read and understand moods. Communication is not a matter of reading between the lines, it is sensitivity.
Listening is a vital ingredient of a healthy communication. Shutting up does not mean that someone is giving up his chance of being heard and understood. It is by shutting up that someone is giving the chance to the other party to be heard and understood. Communication is a two way process. The two parties, the sender and the receiver of a message must learn to give each other a way of understanding the message. Sending a message entails responsibility-the responsibility not just of informing but of helping someone to grow as a person. Once a message is sent, the responsibility of the sender does not end there. It is the sender’s responsibility to make sure that the receiver gets the message as he intends to. When the sender failed to do so, miscommunication is always a possibility. The receiver on the other hand must not only receive messages the way he understands them.
He has to somehow learn to go beyond what are being said and look into what are not being said. As I said earlier, communication entails sensitivity. It is in this face of communication where knowledge makes a big difference with wisdom. Let me put it this way: The boss asks his assistant to join the meeting. Without being told, the assistant has to bring her notes, the reports and papers that maybe needed in the discussion. The boss does need not to tell his assistant to be ready to answer questions about recent events or updates on the on-going projects. This is wisdom. Communication does not teach people to be robots, to just do what is being told and ask of them. Communication teaches people to think and to grow. Communication is not an educational tool only by means of words, but of gestures, signs and symbols. Communication is not just a matter of commanding and instructing; it is a matter of educating and sharing for the benefit of both the sender and the receiver.