Communication has always been one of the most vital things for survival over the course of human history. Ever since the beginning, we communicate, and the same played the most important role in the advancement of this species. If we could not communicate, perhaps, we would still have been in jungles today or wouldn’t exist at all. It is the communication that helped us understand each other which further enabled us to advance our species significantly over other species. Due to communication only, we humans are now dominating this blue-green planet. In this blog, we would be diving into communication a little more than most of the people out there know. The purpose is not to give you any tips or tricks of communication, but simply to enlighten you with some more knowledge about the same.
In this era, we get up, talk to our family members, go to schools, colleges, workplaces, meet people there, hang-out with friends, go out for shopping, to restaurants, and execute a countless number of other tasks. The one thing which stays common among the majority of our tasks is communication. We communicate, literally a lot. The communication that we make is divided into two categories i.e. verbal communication, and non-verbal communication.
Verbal communication means any communication which includes words. It can be either written or spoken. Human language is a set of symbols that are manipulated with grammar rules to make sense out of them. Different languages include different sets of symbols, different pronunciations, different word-arrangement, and different grammar.
Spoken communication and the history of language development
Though there are many contradictions because of different types of researches by different historians, but it is majorly believed that the spoken mode of communication appeared before the written communication. It was when we went through the Pleistocene age which started around 1,000,000 years ago when we got separated from our closest species- chimpanzees, and continued till 200,000 years ago. This was the time when we acquired the ability to produce language. But there was still a long way to go to develop a full-fledged language which could enable us to communicate each and everything. We were still majorly dependent on non-verbal communication. Though due to lack of shreds of evidence, it is impossible to find out the real time when we developed a language, but it is roughly believed that the language was developed by the modern homo sapiens only between 50,000 BC to 150,000 BC. However, some scientists also argue that it was developed in the Mesolithic stone age (also known as middle stone age) around 8,000 years ago. Language development was an astronomic achievement in the course of human history. It transformed the way we live today. But written communication was still yet to appear.
History of written communication
Around 30,000 to 40,000 years ago, it was the beginning of the Upper Paleolithic Period in the old stone age (40,000 years ago to 10,000 years ago) and some rhino drawings were discovered as the first pictograms that appeared in the human history. They had no idea that these drawings are going to bring a revolution in the coming centuries. By 9,000 BC, pictograms were being used all across the world. By around 3,000 BC, pictograms started fading away. This was the period when the humans were busy developing the agriculture, inventing pottery, clearing the forests, building permanent residences in the early stages of civilization. The reason behind the collapsing use of pictograms was that a new revolution was coming in trend in written communication. Logograms came into existence. Logograms are the symbols that represent a letter, a word, or a phrase. This was the beginning of written communication as a language that is very much advanced now.
Written communication in the modern age
Written communication is essential in the modern age. In fact, written communication is the most common form of business communication. It is essential for business owners and managers to develop effective written communication skills and to encourage the same in all employees. The information age has altered how we communicate and put an increasing emphasis on written versus oral communications within organizations. However, we do need to consider the fact that both oral and written communication have their own advantages and disadvantages. Written communication can be altered before sending and can be saved for later purposes. On the other hand, oral communication is spontaneous and includes more emotions than a written message.
Nonverbal communication, on the other hand, doesn’t include words. Broadly, it includes body language, voice, and other channels. According to some researchers, nonverbal communication represents two-thirds of all communications. Nonverbal communication can portray a message both vocally and with the correct body signals or gestures. Also, nonverbal communication strengthens the first impression in common situations like attracting a partner or in a business interview. Scientific research on nonverbal communication was started in 1872 with the publication of Charles Darwin’s book The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals. Referring to the evolution of the species, he mentions in his book that since we used to attack by biting, baring the teeth was a necessary act before an assault and wrinkling the nose reduced the inhalation of foul odors. Now, humans continue to make facial expressions because they have acquired communicative value throughout evolutionary history. In other words, humans utilize facial expressions as external evidence of their internal state.
Taking nonverbal communication for reference, it is divided into 3 categories which are as follow-
Haptics is the study of the sense of touch. Taking haptics in the context, Haptics communication is how we communicate via touching. The other person experiences different sensations based on how we touch him. A handshake, a pat on the back, a kiss, a hug, a slap, all are studied under haptics only. The message being conveyed by touching majorly depends upon the culture, the context of the situation, the relationship between communicators, and the manner of touch. Touch is the first sense that we develop as a fetus. The development of the sense of touch is then followed by the development of the rest of the senses. Haptics is further subcategorized into 5 categories which are as follow –
Kinesics can be defined as nonverbal communication or the study of nonverbal communication related to body movements, postures, gestures, eye contact, and facial expressions. Waving hand to say Hi or Bye, nodding head in yes or no, raising shoulder to say that you have no idea, snapping your finger to catch the attention of someone, winking at someone, all these are some of the examples of kinesic communication. Here are some one-liner explanations of each aspect of kinesic communication-
- Face: The face and eyes are the most expressive means of body communication. It can facilitate or hamper feedback. It is also used to show emotions.
- Eye contact: It is the most powerful form of non-verbal communication. It builds an emotional relationship between listener and speaker.
- Gesture: It is the motion of the body to express the speech.
- Posture: The body position of an individual conveys a variety of messages.
- Body movement: It is used to understand what people are communicating with their gestures and posture
Proxemics is the study of the distance or space that we maintain while communicating with someone and how it influences the communication that we make. The physical space plays a crucial role during communication. There are four types of distances that people tend to keep: intimate (0-18 inches), personal (18 inches to 4 feet), social (4-12 feet), and public (over 12 feet). One of the things to consider while determining how much space an individual needs is to recognize that this distance is intentionally chosen by individuals based on factors like prior experiences, cultural backgrounds, and the kind of relationship they have with someone. For example, an individual might be comfortable being extremely close to a romantic partner but may lean away when a work colleague gets too close. On the other hand, public speaking requires more space between the speaker and the listener.
Vocalics is the study of our voice in terms of pitch, pace, loudness, intonation while speaking something. Vocalics is also studied under Paralanguage. Para is originally a Greek prefix that means “next to” or “outside of.” So paralanguage is that part of language which is outside of the words itself, yet still conveys information. Typically, it refers to how a person’s vocal tone contributes meaning to speech. Various researches and studies suggest that if someone detects a conflict between the words of a speaker and his voice tone, the listener is more likely to believe that they understand and interpret from the speaker’s tone over the actual words that they use.
Let’s have a brief idea of the voice properties studied under vocalics. Though there are many properties if we go in detail, we would just have a brief look at the five major properties which make the most difference in the message delivery.
- The first property is the pitch. We measure how high or how low is the speaker’s pitch. Speakers with low pitch voices are generally perceived as more credible than those with high pitch voices. Many public politicians, public figures, public speaker, and trainers purposefully lower their pitch to sound more credible. Some also go through voice training to lower their pitch.
- The second vocal property is the rate, and it is about how fast you speak. Conversational rate generally varies from 150-200 words/min. But some people purposefully increase the rate to show excitement or decrease the rate for deep thinking. Taking debate as an example, some notorious debaters use a very high rate of speech to make multiple arguments
- Volume is the third property that we study in vocalics. By the name itself, you must have understood that it is about the loudness of our speech. People tend to think that happy, cherish, and victory moments are supposed to be marked with increased volume. On the other hand, lowering your volume in front of an audience is a great way to add drama to moments in your speech. In fact, when you all of a sudden lower the volume in front of an audience, it brings a sudden silence in the hall/room and increases drama for whatever you’re saying at that moment. Playing with it can be a great idea to capture the attention of people.
- The fourth property is voice articulation. Articulation is all about how clearly you speak out the words. Slurring and mumbling are examples of poor articulation. In order to improve articulation there is a little trick of that speech practitioners tend to use. They put a pen or pencil sideways in their mouth, and then deliver your speech. The obstruction in their mouth forces the muscles in their lips and their tongue to work around the object. Once they remove the pen or pencil and deliver your speech again, they are now over articulating and it seems much clearer to the audience.
- The last property we will discuss is pronunciation. It is simply about how we pronounce the words that we speak. Poor pronunciation might lead to a non-effective communication and the listener might not take you seriously. Also, people might pronounce the same word in different ways which alters the style of the message received by the listener. For example, data and data, cabin and cabin, schedule and schedule, Potato and potato, and many more.
Chronemics is the study of the use of time in nonverbal communication. Time can be used as a communication tool in many ways, from punctuality to expectations around waiting and response time during conversations, to general principles around time management. For example, if you reach in the meeting on time, you’re sending a message to others that you’re punctual.
Summing it up
You have gained ample knowledge about human communication from this blog. But this knowledge is just a drop in the ocean. Communication is executed by our brain, so there are literally no limits on how divergent and advanced it can be in the coming centuries. Take the internet for example, in this human history of millions of years, it’s not even been half a century and the way we communicate has transformed significantly. It has also brought in a whole new vocabulary and phrase bank into our language. Humans are now working on turning telepathy into realty. It is assumed that by the end of the 21st century, humans will ditch speed and communicate using nothing but their thoughts. They will do this via a so-called Collective AI Consciousness. Who knows that these millions of years are just the beginning of a super-advanced communication which is still millions of years away in the future.