It’s Sunday. What a crazy week. I just want to chill out and not think. I go visit my South African friend in Appledoorn. He has the cutest doggy. She puts her paws on me, and it’s the first time I notice dirty marks on my lycra. How is that possible? I should have picked up a ton of stuff already? The doggy has such a charming impact on my life. I’m glad she’s the first to imprint on me.
Axioms and the process of communication
Lots of communication is carried on below the level of consciousness. The five axioms of communication, formulated by Paul Watzlawick, describe the processes of communication that take place during an interaction. Watzlawick was a psychologist and communications theorist, who defined five basic axioms as the basis of his work. His axioms also help explain how misunderstandings and conflict can occur.
|Axiom 1: ‘One cannot not communicate’
A lot of communication happens at an unconscious level. As soon as two people perceive each other, they start communicating. Any perceivable behaviour, including the absence of action, has the potential to be interpreted by other people as having some meaning. In other words, we communicate even when we don’t particularly want to.
|Axiom 2: ‘Every communication has a content’
Every communication has a content and relationship aspect, such that the latter classifies the former, and is, therefore, a meta-communication; a secondary communication about how a piece of information is meant to be interpreted.
|Axiom 3: ‘Communication is punctuated’
The nature of a relationship is dependent on the punctuation of the partners’ communication procedures. How the involved parties decipher each other’s intentions, actions, or way of communicating.
In this context, punctuation refers to the process of organizing groups of messages into meanings. All parties involved structure the communication flow differently and therefore interpret their own behaviour during communicating as merely a reaction to the other’s behaviour.
|Axiom 4: ‘Communication involves digital and analogic modalities’
Human communication involves both digital and analogic modalities. The digital mode is what the person says, what their words actually mean. While the analogue mode has to do with how something is said or the nonverbal cues that go along with it.
We can sometimes send two opposing messages at once and this may cause misunderstandings and conflict. When a person sends a message with conflicting verbal, para-verbal, and nonverbal information, the nonverbal tends to be believed.
|Axiom 5: ‘Communication can be symmetrical or complementary’
Interhuman communication procedures are either symmetric or complementary, depending on whether the relationship of the partners is based on differences or parity.
A symmetric relationship is one in which everyone behaves as equals, from a power perspective. If a symmetrical relationship gets out of hand, both parties can end up attacking each other in a power struggle.
A complementary relationship, on the other hand, is one of unequal power, such as parent-child, boss-employee, leader-follower. If a complementary relationship gets out of hand, the disparity will increase over time. The powerful may become more tyrannical, while the submissive will be even more limited in their opportunities to engage.
- Montes, Diego. 5 Axioms to Improve Your Team Communication and Collaboration. (2021). https://www.encora.com/insights/5-axioms-to-improve-your-team-communication-and-collaboration