A Communication Definition
Without Technique

When Leonard Bernstein was asked for a communication definition, he said: “Technique is communication. The two words are synonymous in conductors.”

Knowing how to use the baton is part of a conductor’s technique. Getting the orchestra to respond to the conductors actions is another part. But there is more to communication than sending and receiving signals.

Communication and Values

Knowing why we communicate is also part of a useful communication definition. We communicate because we want someone to help us take care of something we value.

If they understand our message correctly, they will either agree to help us, ask for more information, or turn us down.

Each of these responses is acceptable because each helps us move ahead with taking care of what we value. We can shake hands on an agreement, discuss the proposal further, or move on and ask someone else for help.

Communication and Interpretation

Discovering what our messages mean to others is another important part of a complete communication definition. If we discover that their understanding differs from ours, we can send new messages to clarify any confusion.

This exchange of meanings is at the center of all effective communication. When we fail to engage in it, we do so for two reasons.

Either we assume that we know what someone else’s words and actions mean, and don’t check with them to see if our assumption is true; or we assume they know what our words and actions mean, and don’t attempt to discover if we right. In both cases we don’t know if our assumptions are accurate or inaccurate.

When our assumptions are inaccurate, we say “Yes!” when we ought to say “No!” and “No!” when we ought to say “Yes!” We end up spending our time, energy and money on things we don’t really care about.

Communication Definition Checklist

To avoid making decisions based upon false assumptions, follow this checklist

  • Identify something important to you that you need to take care of
  • Decide who you need to help you take care of it
  • Contact that person or group and let them know why you need their help
  • Tell that person what kind of help you need and when you need it
  • Explain to that person how they might benefit from helping you if they don’t see the benefit themselves
  • Listen to that person’s words and observe their behavior to see if they understand your request
  • Respond to any and all messages that indicate your request is not clear
  • Send more messages to clarify any misunderstandings
  • Listen and observe to determine how your clarifying messages are interpreted
  • Supply more information if it is requested and answer any questions
  • Listen and observe to determine how the extra information or answers are interpreted
  • Agree to work together if your request is accepted
  • Move on and ask someone else for help if your request is turned down.

Use the above checklist to go to parties with someone who wants to go with you:

Hi, what’s up?
Nothing much.
Got a minute?
There’s a big party tonight.
At Vlad's.
Who’s going?
Everybody. Want to go?
With you?
Yes, with me.
Not really.
Gotcha! I’ll see you around.

So, what’s a helpful communication definition? How about this: Communication is a process of creating interpretations which motivate others to behave in ways that help us take care of something we value.

Learn what the psychology of communication has to say about communication.

Or, discover how to use the power of language to produce different results in your life.

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