Charmaine Barber

Communication is something we all do and have to do in order to physically survive; food, shelter and clothing being the most basic of our needs.

We have to use communication in some shape or form in order for that survival.

We have emotional needs which we strive to fulfil in our lives also.

Without fulfilling our physical needs, we would live a very uncomfortable life, probably no home, or lacking in many material things which would help to make us feel more comfortable and experience having an easier life.

Our emotional needs also need attending to so that we are happy and fulfilled. Most of us expect these things to happen almost magically, especially when we´re children.

We grow up usually with a roof over our head, full stomach and clothes on our back. We have friends and family around us whom we hopefully connect with too, and the majority of us are, for most of the time, happy with how our lives are.

What we don’t usually learn about unless we want to study communication and language at greater depth, is how to communicate in order to get our needs met.

We aren’t really taught communication skills at school; we just pick up things as we go along. Think, boys pulling the girls hair and learning that if they do something like that, it´s because they like us!

Or think, if we spilt something on the kitchen floor, we would be communicated with in a way which made us realise that it wasn’t a good thing to do because one of our parents would have been upset with us if we had done something like that. We either get scolded, screamed, shouted at, maybe even physically abused or someone tells us not to worry about it. From one extreme to another with shades of grey in between.

Why doesn´t he understand me? I said it often enough!

Albert Mehrabian´s Study of Non-Verbal Communication

To get a better understanding of communication, professor of psychology Albert Mehrabian studied the importance of non-verbal communication in the 1970s and he came up with: Albert Mehrabian ‘s Communication model: 7–38–55. What it stands for is the percentage of how we actually “turn up” in the world when we are communicating with others.

It turns out surprisingly, that only 7% of our communication is done using words, 38% is the way we say what we say, that´s the tonality, how we talk to people. Do we snap at them if we are irritated, or do we react happily when we see someone.

The last part is our physiology, as in non-verbal, the way we shrug our shoulders, nod or shake our heads, wink at someone or generally have a whole conversation with them without saying anything at all which accounts for 55%.

I want to communicate with you, but I keep getting it wrong, so I´ll write you a letter

Our Communication and Perceptions

Ever picked up someone at a disco, rave, dance, the local supermarket or work, with just your non-verbal facial and bodily movements? You won´t have realised you were doing it, but you were having a conversation with them the whole the time.

Is it any wonder then, that we get things so massively wrong at times, especially in this ever increasing speed of the world which we live in, where we are rushing around trying to take in huge amounts of information which we can´t always cope with. It saps our energy and we all only have so many energy units for our day and then we need to recharge by getting a good night’s sleep which doesn´t always happen and leaves us still exhausted.

What we don’t realise when we´re communicating with others, is the split-second speed of the decisions we make and how we arrive at them and also that there are different levels of communication which we use to communicate with.

We have our own map or perception of the world in our head which we have been putting together since we were born, so we automatically react to our own perception of reality which is nothing like anyone elses.

Just visualise everyone walking around, each of us with one of these little animated clouds above our head with all our beliefs, thoughts, ideas perceptions etc. inside it, then try to imagine everyone getting on with each other, no mean feat and in fact, downright impossible a lot of the time!

What we are hearing and seeing is totally based on that little animated world inside our head which puts us in all sorts of various frames of mind, either positive or negative, our own experiences, expectations and preferences for how we are fully immersed in that world.

For any real, meaningful communication to take place, we must first build trust and rapport with others by listening fully and with complete focus on the other person, not on ourselves.

Forget about thinking about what you should be cooking or buying for dinner or whether the car needs winter/summer tyres putting on it.

Be in the moment and not somewhere in the future or in the past. Be there for that other person. Be aware of yourself also and try to not bring shame, blame, judgement or criticism to the relationship table and try not to jump to conclusions which are nowhere near the truth of the matter.

It´s far better to bring honesty rather than hidden intentions with you. If you don´t, it will only bring hurt, if not now then later. Don´t attempt to assume that you know the other persons intentions and be prepared to ask open questions so that you receive the true, real and honest answers.