Imagine you are communicating with another person, what exactly are you doing to communicate? Maybe you’re exchanging words, or flashing hand signals, or making physical contact or maybe you are just staring into each other’s eyes. Each of these is a distinct type of communication but they are all interlinked to the character that you’re communicating with.
We’ll start with our adapted form of communication, our emotions. Emotions, coupled with our tendency to mirror, allow us to display powerful feelings that other organisms can mirror in order to sympathize. The emotion you feel communicates a message that is understood and felt by the sympathizers. Our emotions were adapted through evolution evidenced by the many universal signs of emotional catharsis.
Catharsis refers to the physical release of emotions; it can take the form of a smile, tears, laughter, or a shout. Regardless of your cultural background, you can understand the emotions of a person who is catharting: we are all the same species, after all.
Emotional communication takes place most effectively through eye contact, though it can be interpreted in body stance and facial expression. Emotional communication requires practice to get comfortable with. Lack of experience will elicit fear and encourage you to look away from direct eye contact. Seriously, try to fight this. You’ll even notice that you lose track of what you are saying because you are literally having a second conversation between those locked eyes.
Another basic form of communication is physical touch. Western culture is one that, for the most part, doesn’t touch each other much. We learn to keep our hands to ourselves and to respect each other’s “personal bubbles.” Because we are habituated to not being touched, when it happens there is a sudden spike in stimulation of that area. Breaking a trend means uncertainty which means fear. If that fear isn’t followed by further danger then trust can form as fear melts away.
Synapsing trust to physical touch will synapse trust to the person touching you. Soon enough, the touch of that person will become habituated and you might eventually welcome it. Sometimes intimate couples can have full conversations with physical touch alone. The most extreme example of physical communication is sex; though much more extreme synapses are formed, the process is basically the same.
Finally, we reach the most cognitively demanding level of communication: language. Language is a developed communication system, meaning it was not adapted via natural selection but was actively created and spread by humans. In order to use a language, the users must be aware of the agreed upon significance synapsed to specific sounds or symbols. A lot of memory storage is required to use language as well as a rapid memory recall from the language center of the brain. Synapsed to each word’s neural cluster is how to create and interpret the word as well as any significance that has been linked to it.
The one thing that each form of communication has in common is that it is a translation of the communicator’s intention. The intention is the idea that you choose to communicate, but the translation into words or action can sometimes alter the intended message.
You’ve heard the phrase “actions speak louder than words,” I’m going to finish it off with “but intentions speak truest of all.” Accidents happen and miscommunication runs rampant through our culture. It is important to not just look at the words and actions of an individual but instead look at their intention. It is only when we empathize with others to see their intention that we can truly understand their actions or words.