When we’re telling a story with an intentional, pre-arranged moral at the end, we do our best to communicate clearly. “Here’s this thing that happened,” we’re saying, “and here’s what I learned from it.”
But communication doesn’t cease at the end of a yarn or the conclusion of a book. Everything we do, everything we present, every exchange that we have is saturated with potential significance. If we’re not tuned into this, there’s a chance we’re transmitting meaning that is unintentional, and even counter to our intentions.
A text message, for instance, can be laden with information.
What we say matters — the words we use, I mean — but so does, potentially, the speed at which we reply. Or the emoji (or lack thereof) scattered throughout our text. There’s even evidence that using a period at the end of such an exchange communicates things we’d likely prefer not to convey.
This is the case, too, with in-person interactions.
Our body language, our stance, the way we’re dressed, our tone of voice. All of these messages, many of them subconscious or unintentional, aggregate into something larger; the definition of who we are to those who encounter us.
In the same way you perceive things about an author based on how they structure sentences and the vocabulary they bring to bear and the rhythm of their writing, you also draw passive conclusions about the guy standing next to you at the party based on his sheepish smile, loud socks, and the way he sips his drink.
I bring this up not to wig anybody out about all the little conversations and data-finding missions that are happening invisibly around us all the time, but to put a sharp point on the idea that we have myriad opportunities to communicate things that we believe are important, far above and beyond a blog post or tweet. We have the ability to speak volumes without saying a word, and to convince, convey, and compound by slightly altering something we’re doing unconsciously.
These little actions and reactions are untapped billboard spaces that we can use to promote anything we like.
Rather than writing blog posts about being happier and more fulfilled, why not live it? Why not show it? Why not make those around you feel good, promote self-sustainability through your actions, by being self-sustained while nudging others toward the same? Why not dress in a way that expresses your values, create art the speaks volumes, or art that says nothing but “I did this because I enjoy it,” which itself is a meaningful statement?
Looking at the world from this perspective, it suddenly seems more valuable to learn to use emoji so that you can communicate different things in a different way using a different medium; so that you can interact with a different audience, one for whom those little images and animations amount to a local dialect.
Why not learn about unfamiliar genres of music and unfamiliar foods, to better understand the culture who creates and imbibes both? To better grok the societal norms and historical mores that led to their creation?
What opportunities are we missing out on, ignoring these communication channels? What connections might we make, and what relationships might we build? What might we learn? How might we grow? And how might we help others connect and build and grow, as well?
I don’t know. I do know that this has been a valuable realization for me to have, and to act upon in ways that make sense for me. We’ll all utilize these channels differently, though, and I’m guessing that the resultant value in most cases will be determined by one’s own determination, and the messages we each choose to convey (and to whom).
Thankfully it’s not difficult to get started. You just have to be open to an expansive definition for the word “communication,” and decide to communicate as clearly as possible via whatever channels you discover. To make a habit of doing so.
Then you step back and watch for the impact of your words, and for any messages you might receive in return.