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Essentials of Communication

“The single biggest problem in the communication is the illusion that it has taken place – George Bernard Shaw”

We have to realize and appreciate the fact that we as humans are the only species blessed with speech and this alone differentiates us from others on earth. Plants, animals, insects, birds etc. do communicate in the language of their own. But their communication is limited to their basic needs of survival and mostly nothing beyond. Some animals like pets may however have evolved, over a period, learning to communicate with us humans in whatever language we speak.


And some exceptions, like parrots, have developed vocalization of verbal language, though not exhaustive, to the extent that they have been trained.

Alex, a grey parrot, trained by Dr. Irene Pepperberg, has knowledge of 100 words, understood the meaning of questions and can ask one question about himself.

N'kisi, a grey parrot, knows over 900 words, can form sentences and even has the knowledge of tense.

Communication is an art and not all can master it. It is a double-edged sword that has risks: firstly, communicating in the right manner, secondly perceiving it in the way it is supposed to be. Definitely it needs to be looked into and be utilized as a tool that helps in making us than breaking. We have history of wars raging out of improper communication and peace treaties made because of just words but not swords. Few examples of miscommunication with disastrous consequences are mentioned below.

  • Battle of Trenton, 1776 - In the American War of Independence, the famous Battle of Trenton was fought between George Washington and his American troops, and Johann Rall and his Hessian regiments (these were German soldiers hired to fight for the British Empire). A lot of war tactics led to Washington’s victory, but there’s a curious story that talks about inattentive Rall. When a spy handed him a note of the American whereabouts, Rall put it in his coat pocket and never read it. The note was found after he died, in the Trenton battle.

  • Charge of the Light Brigade, 1854 - This took place during the Crimean War, between Russian forces and the British light cavalry. Due to a miscommunication in the chain of command the Light Brigade rode directly into a heavy artillery battle scene, which they weren’t suited for. This resulted in brutally high casualties. Historical accounts say that when the original order was relayed to the troops, it lacked insight into the bigger picture or purpose of their strategy. It was also one of those miscommunications that became so convoluted, no one exactly knew who gave what orders and why. For years after the war, some of the higher-ups continued to point fingers and mitigate themselves of responsibility.

Though the examples are from the history, it is to be understood that communication is simple yet powerful baton. Businesses too are not exempt from making mistakes of communication. Improper marketing campaigns, cross cultural communication issues, offensive language in advertisements, improper product positioning and many more. In a world and society as diverse as ours, let us look at what are the absolute essentials of communication either on personal or formal fronts:

Absolute Essentials:

  1. Carry a gentle smile at all times. This encourages a congenial atmosphere for healthy and joyful conversations.

  2. Greet people appropriate to time and situation whenever you see them. This cultivates a good bonding.

  3. Introduce yourself in those first meetings and be careful not to divulge or seek extraneous personal information.

  4. Avoid judging others, irrespective of what you may know about them.

  5. Mutual respect is the mantra.

  6. Accept people for their true nature and do not get carried away by appearances.

  7. Take time to understand your friends, family, colleagues, peers, etc.

  8. Do not pass comments or casual jokes that may involve others intellectual or physical capabilities.

  9. Strict no to body and beauty talk. It is superfluous and rude to comment on how one looks and feels. Perfection is far from reality and nonexistent.

  10. Be an attentive listener.

  11. Never fail to give feedback that best fits the situation.

  12. Take no offence and give none when conversations go off beat. It is very important to keep the sensitivities of the listener in mind. And to protect self, one should take the conversation in a rational manner to avoid unnecessary flare ups of emotions like anger, frustration etc.

  13. Refrain yourself from attacking others personally. Keep the words limited to the topic of conversation.

  14. Any indication that discussion is going in the undesirable way, do not hesitate to mention the same politely and bring back the talk to normalcy.

  15. When arguments and contradictions are inevitable let them be supported by facts and statistics, rather than exchange of words.

  16. Remember to end any conversation on a good note.


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