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John W. Travis, M.D. & Regina Sara Ryan
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Introduction - Communicating

You think it's a secret, but everybody knows. - Fortune cookie

Human communication is simply an exchange of information, verbal or nonverbal, between a sender and a receiver. (A rather cold description for what can be poetry or lovemaking.) However, because we humans are so fantastically complex, it is virtually impossible for us to communicate isolated bits of data, despite what you may have experienced from your high school history teacher. Every time you speak to (or write to, or look at) someone, you are revealing yourself. You can't avoid it. Your tone of voice, selection of words, facial expression, even the clothes you wear and the way you comb your hair, all these are messages in themselves, messages about you. Furthermore, the person you are addressing interprets what you share in the light of his or her own beliefs and values. Sometimes there are so many variables, so many hidden messages, that the original information is deeply buried, and a map is required to recover it.

When you are not busy communicating with someone or something else, you are carrying on a running conversation with yourself, even though you may not be aware of it. These internal conversations are as vulnerable to distortions and misrepresentations as any other conversation. Because internal conversations direct the way you view the world and the way you view yourself, they have a momentous impact on your health and happiness. If you tell yourself enough times that the world is a terrible place, if you tell yourself enough times that you are weak and susceptible, then very likely the outcome will be just so.

In the next sections we will focus almost exclusively on verbal communication, exploring the dynamics of how people talk to themselves (intrapersonal communication) and one another (interpersonal communication). We will also study the breakdowns that can occur. As you come to understand and appreciate this process, you may simultaneously understand and appreciate yourself. The clearer the channel (you), the better the possibilities for a meaningful encounter - a dynamic energy exchange.

<< Previous Communicating | Back to Communicating | Next >> Intrapersonal Communication
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