Communication is an everyday life process. Everything we do is brimming with content that can be either verbal or non-verbal. However, due to the fact that communication is constant and is usually humdrum, we often don’t stop and think about the implications, interactions, messages and the overall context of our exchange and the impact that has on others.
Most animals communicate through different and diverse means, these messages can be sent either by smell, sound or touch. This information is commonly about: danger, hierarchy, food or social interaction. What sets us apart from them is the sophistication and articulation of our language, as well as the nuances of its delivered. Many psychologists, philosophers, linguists and other theorists have studied this subject and constructed many theories to predict and explain it.
One of the most prominent theorists and researchers of communication was Paul Watzlawick with his work he developed “the five axioms of communications”. These propositions articulate the way humans interact and communicate with one other. Although these axioms describe the interaction in a family’s ecosystem, they have a direct correlation into the business environment. These ideas resemble the hierarchical structure where we have a 360 degree dynamic with leadership, peers and reporting roles.
But how exactly do these axioms relate to the way we communicate? If we explain and exemplify the first statements that are: One cannot communicate (Watzlawick, Beavin, and Jackson, 1967, p. 1). The first axiom shows that everything one does is a message: “Activity or inactivity, words or silence all have a messaging value: they influence others and these others, in turn, cannot respond to these communications and are thus themselves communicating”. This statement translates and connects to business environments too. By explaining our behaviour when we are dealing with clients, providers and work peers, if we decide (consciously or unconsciously) to avoid contact, respond or interact with them our non-verbal communications can give away our true feelings or intentions. To the untrained eye, this may be just a delay or an oversight in the process, however, if we keep on repeating this behaviour we are potentially losing the opportunity to demonstrate clarity in our work and risk losing their business.
The way businesses operate today has evolved. It may still be true that the end goals are profitability and sustainability, however, there is more than that in the equation. One example is evident with the distance of power, these have shifted from a vertical regimen to a more horizontal form, which represents one of the biggest transformations on the way we deal with others. Furthermore, modern generations (millennial and gen-Z) are pushing new boundaries with modified expectations that have created a different reality. Our new success measure relies on the strengths and continuity of our relationships.
We must not forget that regardless of the type of relationship we have, we must treat our counterparts like we wish to be treated. It is not a matter of being hyper-attentive in our interactions but an overall awareness of how they are perceived what I do. Therefore we need to have an awareness of our own non-verbal communication and the implications that come with them. This whole idea connects with a more complex and compelling narrative that helps integrate a better overall context and set the stage for building better and stronger lasting relationships.
Fundamentally we all communicate as we have described earlier, furthermore, we need to have a level of introjection (insight) to understand that the outcomes which we create with our own actions will have an impact in the world that we live in. We as architects, interiors and urban designers require raising our level of awareness to ‘listen’ to the verbal and non-verbal communication to find those ‘cues’ that will help us deliver better solutions and making better places. The intention of our design vision should be greater than our individual desire to transcend, we need to deliver transformational solutions to an ever-changing world that requires an inclusive, comprehensive and usable living spaces without sacrificing aesthetic value.
The old saying ‘it takes two to tango’ can be given an entirely new relevance to how we communicate in business, where one views this information through this new lens of “one cannot communicate”. Brings new light on the way we should deal with our interactions.