Sunday, April 28, 2013

Communication as Possibility

Many years ago, as an undergraduate student studying with Dr. John Diekman at St. John's University, I was introduced to the idea of communication as possibility. It was one of those life-changing concepts that education, at its best, provides us.

Dr Diekman, a brilliant lecturer, introduced the idea by contrasting it with the notion of "communication as currency". As currency, communication is something that goes back and forth, a means of exchange between people. Thinking about communication as possibility, on the other hand, is quite a different matter. It is built on several premises, which together allow us to see communication in a unique way.

First, we live in a "process world". As the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus observed, all reality is change...everything is a process. There are no "things" in our world, as everything is a process. At the molecular and sub-molecular levels, everything is moving, changing. We cannot see these with the naked eye, but our scientific friends with powerful microscopes assure us that everything is changing, all the time.

Not the least of these changing bodies are our own. People are processes, as many of the cells that made up my body yesterday are now dead, as new ones emerge. Psychologically as well, I am not the same person I was yesterday, as I have had numerous experiences, conversations, and so forth that literally make me a different person than I was yesterday.

Second, once we accept that we live in a process world we can begin to understand that expression is a creative act. In this ever changing reality I bring something into being (the definition of creation) every time I open my mouth and speak, as well as with every nonverbal expression. And insofar as others are doing the same we are together creating our shared world through every communicative act we engage in. That simple "hello" uttered to a stranger creates the potential for a relationship should the stranger respond in kind. Together we have created that possibility.

And this brings me to my third premise, the notion of choice or free will. The French existentialist Jean Paul Sartre asserted that human beings are "condemned to choose". All meaningful behavior involves a choice. As communicators we choose how we express ourselves and we choose how we interpret the world around us. What happens to us we have no control over, but how we respond to it is a choice.

And so when you take these three ideas together we live in a process world where each moment is a new reality which has never existed before in the history of the universe. Within that context,we are making choices both in what we bring into the world and how we give meaning to that which we experience at the hands of others. And those choices are creative ones, bringing into being that which did not exist before.

And because we are free to think and choose and bring our ideas into being, communication is possibility. What can be, is what is possible. Is world peace possible? If everyone made the choice to stop fighting, to stop hating, to forgive and understand and dare to love...you bet it is. Is it possible for you to make a million dollars? Think and say the right things to the right people and choose wisely...you bet it is.

When we reconsider communication as possibility we see that anything is possible if we make the right choices, inspire similar choices in others, and so forth. We can bring things into being by thinking and speaking. All great advances in history begin with an idea, but then that idea is shared, it is communicated to another and then the causal wheels are set in motion.

If we can think it and speak it it is possible!

That's all for today, Until next time be well, speak well, and as always, thank you for reading,

For more information about Dan Leyes and his consulting services visit Semiosphere Consulting.