Implicit and explicit communication

I got a new view on communication: non-verbal communication should be considered an asset. Something valuable. People say that 90% of messages are transported non-verbally, so we should see non-verbal communication as increasing the bandwidth of our communication  by a factor of 9!

However, many people see the realm of non-verbal communication rather as a liability, because the messages transmitted are often sent involuntarily, and then misunderstood. To deal with this problem, we simply need to learn to send and to receive non-verbally.

Learning to communicate non-verbally is quite a time-intensive process, but it is necessary to establish a communication link between each two people. Though time-intensive, it is actually great for people who have a shared life anyway: couples, intentional communities etc..

Mastering the channel of non-verbal communication offers many benefits, actually. Especially, it offers more subtle means of communication: ways to express something with less force and less sharpness than possible by any words. (Because words, as explicit entities, have always a lot of inherent weight.) And there are many situations where it is desirable to transport content in a subtle, gentle way.

And here is an idea on how to learn non-verbal communication: you simply need a “feedback mode”, to check what messages you sent (partially unnoticed by you) and what the other party understood. This can be done by agreeing that it is always (at all times in all communication situations) possible to request feedback; which means the other party has to say with absolute naked honesty what he or she understood. That requires a great amount of underlying trust, because saying what one understood also gives deep insights of what one thinks, making woundable. But in partnerships and good friendships, this should be possible.







4 responses to “Implicit and explicit communication”

  1. K.D.

    is the percentage in written communication the same? I mean, can you commnicate nonverbally while writing?

  2. Hmm … I would assume non-verbal written communication is possible. However, I would not be surprised if it comes in lower percentage, because the means to express it are quite limited (no facial expressions, no tone of voice, no gestures …). This will probably also make it a bit more hard to learn and to understand. But as there is more time to verbalize when writing than when speaking, one can still arrive at texts densely packed with it (for example, some poems and song lyrics).

    I would define means of non-verbal written communication as “everything that conveys meaning, apart from the denotation of words and sentences”. The following examples come to my mind: word plays, most stylistic devices in poetry, employing the connotations of words, irony, choosing words in a way that suggests a certain tone of voice, punctuation that suggests a certain style of speaking (my favorite is “…”), intentional use of double meaning, inside jokes and other ways to employ inside knowledge (i.e. establishing a context without explicitly writing it down), omitting things (like an answer to another’s question).

  3. K.D.

    I came to the conclusion that nonverbal communication face-to-face is very useful and tells you loads about what one really thinks or means whereas in written communication it can be very hindering. Re the examples it means both parties have to understand a play on words in the same way, and especially with double meanings it’s easy to produce misunderstandings (even in spoken communication, where you get the direct feedback by the puzzled look in ones eyes, whichs gives you the chance to immediately explain what you meant). Again, one needs to be educated to a certain level to identify plays on words and other stylistic devices. And even using inside knowledge, which is very popular – I think because of it’s unifying character in groups which excludes outsiders – might carry on behind. Plus: in written communication it takes much longer to get rid of misunderstandings.
    To put it in a nutshell: don’t try to communicate non-verbally too much while writing (except you are on feedback-mode all the time), but try to understand non-verbal communication as an asset.
    By the way: most times the non-verbal signals that are sent by body language are the more honest ones (Nietzsche said something like this). Who wants to read more about communication should be recommended Paul Watzlawik, who wrote several books about communication and some more about reality. “Anleitung zum Unglücklichsein” is a really funny parody on misunderstanding reality!

  4. I respect you conclusions regarding non-verbal means in written communication, still I myself would go for some experiments and learning attempts. Anyway, you are the one who “invented” it after all, so thanx for your thoughts …

    With respect to body language etc. as “the more honest” communication: yes, correct. And in fact, many use non-verbal communication just for: (1) try to read people’s mind in spite of what they are saying, (2) sending manipulative signals, mostly out of fear to correct somebody directly.

    While I think that practice might have some place somewhere, the original post was about a new use for non-verbal communication: not convicting, not manipulating, but an added channel for people who are already communicating honestly with each other. I’d definitely like to try that out in some setting … it’s innovation in the social realm 😀

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