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Communication Is Constant

Communication Is Constant

Author: marlene johnson

At the end of this tutorial, the learner will understand that people are constantly sending messages (intentionally or unintentionally) that will be interpreted by others.

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Video Transcription

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Communication is constant. Whether we know it or not, we're probably communicating something. From the moment we wake up til we go to bed at night, we're sending messages. Some of them are conscious messages we intend to send. Some of them we are sending unconsciously. I'm Marlene, and in this tutorial, I'd like to talk with you about communication, how constant it is, and how the messages we send, unconsciously, can sometimes lead to conflict when there are different interpretations.

So let's look at the variety of ways that we send messages. We send messages through words, either spoken or written. We can gesture to send a message. We send emails. We tweet. We blog. We text. There are so many ways that we can send messages, both verbally in a spoken or written form, or non-verbally.

So the way we send messages, we refer to it as a code. A code is a set of symbols with consistent meanings used to hold and convey information. So the meanings are consistent. If you've ever gone to a spy movie where you've seen somebody trying to crack a code, what they're doing is that they're looking at the symbols that were put together to form the code to try to understand what is being communicated.

So codes are made up of symbols, and symbols are representation of a concept in a tangible form. For example, if you speak English, you use letters of the alphabet as your symbols. And you put those letters together to form words, and you put the words together, and that becomes a code. Somebody who might want to crack the code, if they don't speak English, would be trying to figure out what the letters in the words mean.

So that's how we communicate. Now, there are a variety of codes out there, verbal and nonverbal. So we might very easily be sending an unintentional message. So an unintentional communication is the interpretation of symbols observed by a receiver, but not intentionally transmitted by the sender.

OK. So I am sending some sort of symbol, or code. I don't even know I'm doing it. You're observing it, and your getting a message. How does that happen? Well, here are some examples. And if we understand correctly what is happening here, there may not be a misunderstanding, but that doesn't always happen. So let's look at these examples. I'm sitting here, and I'm texting.

Now, depending on the context, the interpretation of what that means could lead to a misunderstanding or not. If whoever's texting is sitting in a cafe with their peers, they're having a conversation, and they text. But that's what they commonly do. It's part of their culture. It's part of what they do. And everybody is listening and texting. It's understood that you aren't ignoring someone or being rude when you're doing this.

Now, same person goes to a business meeting and is listening to the speaker but also texting. Now, there could be an unintended communication here in this context because what the people in the meeting are seeing, or certainly the person speaking, is someone not paying attention, ignoring them. And maybe that's not what your intending when you're texting. You're just busy and trying to keep up. That's one example.

Facial expressions are another. Let's go back to the same business meeting. Someone is sitting there with a skull on their face. It looks like they're scowling, and you think, they're upset with what I'm saying. And later, you check it out with someone who knows that person well and says, no, that's just what it looks like when he concentrates. He gets a scowl, but it means he's listening very carefully to what you're saying.

This individual was sending a message, didn't realize he was sending a message, maybe didn't even know he was frowning. And he was concentrating. You thought he was scowling at you. Unintended message, misunderstanding. Yawning could be the same thing. You yawn. You're tired, and someone things your bored. So these sorts of little things that we don't think about send messages that can be unintentional.

Appearance is another way that we send messages. You may show up dressed wrong for a particular setting. You're coming very casual, and you were supposed to be more business professional. Or, you go to a party, and you think, I'm supposed to dress up here, and everybody's casual. And so people look at the way we dress, and they make assumptions about us.

And some of the assumptions might have to do with status in terms of are we wearing certain brands. So for some people, that's important, and you'll be communicating something about your status by the brand of clothing or the fashion that you're wearing.

The way we speak, also, may or may not be communicating something unconsciously. You may be around somebody who is speaking very loudly and just gesticulating. And you are put off by this, thinking they're upset. This is just the way they communicate. Whereas you are used to people communicating in a more constrained fashion, lowering their voices.

And when someone raises their voice and uses a lot of gestures, you feel put off by that, like there's something wrong. That's just a difference in what that means to you, the loud talking and the gestures. So sometimes, if we're agreeing on something, and we both understand that when we talk loudly and gesture, it doesn't mean anything, fine. If we both don't understand that, there can be unintentional communication that's negative.

So I've enjoyed being part of this tutorial, and I look forward to next time.

Terms to Know

A set of symbols with consistent meanings used to hold and convey information.


A representation of a concept in a tangible or otherwise perceivable form.

Unintentional Communication

The interpretation of symbols observed by a receiver but not intentionally transmitted by the sender.