Dr Jonathan Haverkampf
Life is communication. Once cells in an organism stop communicating with other cells, the organism dies. Once partners stop communicating in a relationship, the relationship dies. Once countries stop communicating with each other, the world is economically a poorer place. Trade is communication, science is communication, art is communication. Life as a whole is the transfer of meaningful messages between cells, people and populations. Meaningfulness is the potential to bring about at least a tiny change in someone else. Emotions are as much a meaningful message as is a word in a personal email. (Spam messages are only meaningful if they make you angry.)
Communication enables us to better deal with whatever life throws at us, because it allows us to see more of the world around us. It provides us with more information to base our decisions on, but it also changes what we see of the world around us by changing the information we have about the world. Internal communication means observing and thinking about our own thoughts and emotions, and the more we do it, the more we see of the world inside us, ourselves.
Success in many endeavours depends on how we communicate what we need and what we want. Often, this is not easy because as children or adults we might have ‘learned’ not to say what we need and what we want. However, it is important that we need to verify for ourselves that this is true. If one feels that one does not deserve someone or something, it is important to ask where this voice comes from. Often we find the cause in past interactions with a parent, an ex-partner or other people in life who had issues with themselves, and projected these issues into us, not necessarily out of bad intentions but because they could not deal with their issues themselves. By this process, exploring our own inner world can lead to a sense of more self-confidence.
To improve self-confidence and self-esteem it is important to communicate one’s needs, desires and aspirations in a way that fit one’s personality. Communication at its core is a transparent process. Make belief communication cannot work in the long-run because you send billions of mostly unconscious messages in an instant, and it is impossible to control them all. A 200 millisecond twitch in the lateral edge of your left eye brow might give away information to an observer who, as unlikely as this may be, focuses on your left eyebrow. Even if you do not send any information at all, you still communicate something. Communication can be used strategically in love, business and politics, but people usually underestimate how much they are communicating and that the best strategy is not controlling one’s communication but finding out more about oneself, and become a far better communicator through this process.
If you watch a couple in a bar who just freshly met, you will notice how she might play with a strand of her hair, rock her foot or the short and stealthy glances he throws at her. They establish communication on so many more levels, and they do it automatically! So, what decides whether a kiss is in the cards for later in the evening? Primarily, it is that it has to feel right to each of them, and this is the result of what goes in on the inside, their respective values, preferences and aspirations. And the more they communicate with each other in meaningful ways, the easier it is for each of them to feel ‘right’ about the other.
Communicating better means not just being in touch with the world but also with oneself. The best preparation to go into a negotiation is to know what your values and preferences are, what is important to you and what your aspirations are for the future. Knowing these parameters makes it easier to communicate clearly, to be able to say ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ in just the right moments. You might not know consciously everything about your values and preferences, but your brain processes most of its information outside of your consciousness anyway. This is why we have a ‘gut feeling’ which often seems to be better informed than our consciously thinking parts. Better communication leads to higher quality information, which leads to a more informed gut instinct.
Selling someone on something you do not believe in does not work in the long-run. Communication is largely an automatic process, and to become better at communicating primarily means figuring out what you believe in, what your values are, and what you need and want. I have worked with many people with social anxieties and debilitating fears to give presentations, conduct meetings or speak to other parents at a local school meeting. The anxiety often resolves once people know what is important to them. This might not change one’s life from one day to the next but it gradually takes one to a place of less anxiety, a mutually more effective communication style and helps oneself and one’s environment in the process.
© 2012, 2016 Dr Christian Jonathan Haverkampf. All rights reserved.
Psychotherapy & Counselling, Medicine (Psychiatry), Communication; Dublin, Ireland
This article is solely a basis for academic discussion and no medical advice can be given in this article, nor should anything herein be construed as advice. Always consult a professional if you believe you might suffer from a physical or mental health condition.