The recently deceased multi-talented Paul Watzlawick coined the phrase: you cannot not communicate.Communication is so much more than learning a language and talking: it works on many different channels using not only words but also non-verbal elements like pictures, music, movement, signs, behaviour and writing, as well as your visual, olfactory, auditory and kinaesthetic senses. You may not even be aware of your eye-rolling, the fear or excitement you’re feeling (and sweating out) or that dismissive hand-gesture, but you’re sending signals 24/7. Technically speaking, communication is an intentional and reciprocal process that occurs between a sender and a recipient with the purpose of exchanging information. Getting your message across correctly depends on your ability to adhere to the cultural and grammatical rules in terms of content as much as it does on your sensitivity. The cultural aspect is one that interests me no end, by the way, so I will try and come back to it in future posts.

Every message has different levels and there are barriers to communication that go beyond merely speaking the same language: you may know what you want to say, but can you guarantee that it will be understood and interpreted the way you intended? No, you cannot.

Thankfully, practise makes perfect! Paying attention helps, too – instead of just hearing what is said, try to actively listen. Keep an open mind, take notes, and when you’re unsure about a message you’re receiving, ask in a non-judgemental fashion what was meant before you jump to conclusions. When you’re the sender, encourage questions and summarise or rephrase using different vocabulary to make sure people are hearing what you really want to say.

Especially in your relationships with other people, you will find it rewarding and helpful to communicate openly and honestly. Going back to what we discussed earlier, I encourage you to communicate as congruently as possible with the people around you. Why not try for at least one day this week to listen to your insides while talking to others? You can then incorporate your feelings into the equasion and if you dare to voice them and talk about them, maybe the outcome of that chat you've been dreading will surprise you.