Communication is by many people understood as a process by which information is exchanged between individuals. But did you know, that originally it meant far more? The word communication comes from the latin verb “communicare”, which did not only mean to inform, but to share, to let somebody participate and to do something together. So it described a social activity in which various living creatures did something together. It is directly related to the word “communio” which means community (Merten 1999).
Comparing this to what communication means nowadays to many of us, one recognizes that communication has lost a whole dimension. Yes, a part of it is the exchange of information. But what lies between the exchange of information and the creating something together?
To create something together we need to come to common ground – we need to truly understand each other, and since we are no computers this is a highly complex process. We are living creatures with memories, opinions, conditions, feelings and emotions. With every word or sign exchanged we communicate not only the word/ sign and the meaning you find in the dictionary, but our relation to it, our feelings towards it and our general emotional state. In ervery contact with another person we give a small glimpse to our inside – our past, our present, who we are.
So communicating is about being aware of ourselves and of the other person. It’s about empathy. It’s about allowing contact and the process of getting to understand each others words and actions better and better. It’s about getting to know ourselves. It’s about connection. It’s about realizing what we understood and what not. It’s about asking. It’s about leaving each other space. It’s about being aware of personal borders.
When we are able to create something together, that then is something common – there are no borders visible, it’s not a product of the one or the other, not a product consisting of two parts but one product of both, we communicated.
Sources: Klaus Merten: Einführung in die Kommunikationswissenschaft, Bd. 1: Grundlagen der Kommunikationswissenschaft, Münster u. a. 1999, S. 76–79.