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Building With Bricks | Understanding The 3 Components of Communication

Updated: Nov 28, 2023

Aged brick wall

Communication. The most basic form of human interaction and one that has been plaguing mankind since we first learned how to speak. You would think after a few thousand years we would have things pretty much nailed down by now but nope! We are still getting it wrong. Why? Why is it so difficult to communicate effectively?


"We live in a fast paced world that has drastically changed how we communicate. While conveniences like texting, email, and social media have made the exchange of information and communication lightning fast, it really has also caused almost as many problems as it has solved."

The reason for this is that these methods have often replaced face to face interaction and oftentimes even phone conversations. The fundamental flaw with these rapid forms of communication is they can be misinterpreted because the normal psychological cues that are involved when you speak to someone face-to-face have been removed as have the consequences. This comes back to basic psychology.

 

When looking at how human beings communicate you can break this into the 3 components of communication:


  1. SONG - this represents the actual words you use in a conversation. This makes up about 10% of the impact of the conversation.

  2. MUSIC - this is the manner in which you communicate the words you use, ie the inflection of your voice. This makes up about 40% of what you are conveying.

  3. DANCE - this is your body language. How you use your body while speaking makes up 50% - that's right, HALF, of the impact of what you are saying.


 

These 3 things work together in harmony to help make language 3 dimensional if you will.


In a normal face to face interaction with a human, every one of these methods of communication is visibly and audibly on display. A quick example can show just how different something can be said and then interpreted:


If I was to look at my wife and say, “Honey….you are really smart”, on the surface, the words(song) I used aren’t negative at all. I seemingly was paying her a compliment as I said she was smart. Heck, I even threw in a “honey” for good measure to sweeten the communicative flow.


However if we change the inflection of my voice to one of sarcasm…. things change…. Fast. I say the same line now laced with sarcasm, “Honey…. You are really smart” and it is no longer a compliment, in fact, it has now become the opposite. I am saying she is actually NOT smart and my once sweet buttery “honey” has now turned into an extra dose of patronizing nastiness that is guaranteed to get me in hot water.


Now, if I am looking at her and while I use this same patronizing tone and add some head jiggling, talk out of the side of my month and add some index finger head taps to the picture and well, now I am sleeping on the couch and the temperature of the house just went down 20 degrees.


Let’s take a bit more in-depth look at each of the 3 components of communication as it is key to understanding how limiting certain forms of them can be:



1. Song


Point To Remember: This represents the actual words you use in a conversation. This makes up about 10% of the impact of the conversation.


This is critical to understand because now we know just what those text messages and emails can do to us. Oftentimes we are only communicating with 10% efficiency and in 1 dimension. This is why we will make something all caps or a different font size or color to try to artificially replace the “music” component.


When we do this however and try to artificially synthesize the emotion conveyed in normal speech, we often just cause confusion or misunderstand rather than provide clarification of emotion.


Ultimately, no matter how slick you are in trying to convey this 2nd dimension, you are going to still be doing it artificially.


My particular way of trying to “soften” what I am saying is by picking my words very carefully and also using exclamation marks for emphasis on the positive. Even still, it is a poor excuse for a better form of communication.


We overutilize these forms of communication as humans and the results can be just flat out UGLY. If you don’t believe me, just spend some time on social media.


Ultimately we should only use these forms of communication for quick, emotionless exchanges of information and nothing more (with one exception - flirting with your spouse this way is kind of fun. A quick text of “you hot” does provide the giggles).


We should try to have a face to face conversation whenever possible or for heaven's sake, at least try to call before you have some long drawn out texting, emailing, or worst of all posting session.



2. Music


Point To Remember: This is the manner in which you communicate the words you use, i.e. the inflection of your voice. This makes up about 40% of what you are conveying.


Speaking of a phone call, now we have graduated up the communicative food chain and are operating with 50% efficiency vs. the 10% we just discussed. The person on the other end of the line can hear not only the words you use(song) but the manner in which you are using them(music).


While still lacking the final component of body language (dance), we have at least improved from 1D language to 2D. This level of communication should be used whenever we can’t meet someone face to face for a more in-depth talk but need to convey emotion and verbal cues.


As a side note, “you hot” works even better here….



3. Dance


Point To Remember: This is your body language. How you use your body while speaking makes up 50% - that's right, HALF, of the impact of what you are saying.


Last is the mother of all forms of communication, face-to-face interaction (and all the younger millennials and Gen Z’s reading this wince).


We are now operating with 100% efficiency and while that is good….it also means that we are being heard VERY clearly.


So, if you are a bombastic jerk who enjoys being sarcastic like the guy from my earlier example (because I would NEVER do that), be prepared for the fallout. Your nasty little mouth and ugly body language are going to be getting you in some hot water.


There is a reason that cultures around the world view body language very differently, and that is because of the power of what it conveys.


Body language is a very powerful thing. Don’t believe me? All you need to do is take a drive on the road and give someone the “one finger salute” and you will find out all you need to know about the communicative power of body language(Dance).


Social Media


A few last thoughts on social media that don’t necessarily fall into any of the three categories we discussed.


Many of those keyboard warriors that go on there and just punch away, venting any and every emotion with little regard to feelings or consequences, do this because the physical (proximal) portion of communication has been removed.


It’s easy to be a bully when someone doesn’t fight back but it is even easier when you can do it without ever having to look the person in the face. Being a jerk through a keyboard sometimes thousands of miles away takes little courage. Doing that to someone's face takes a bit more.


Remember, the internet is not written in pencil but in ink. While we might be able to take down a post after our heads (and fingers) have cooled, oftentimes it is too little to late. Think about what you say and moreover, what you type because the consequences can be brutal.

Furthermore, when this becomes the main means of communication for someone, the effects on the human psyche can be disastrous. We witnessed this firsthand through the COVID-19 Pandemic. Human beings were not designed for isolationism and now that we know that these forms of communication only operate with 10% efficiency, it is easy to see how destructive to the human psyche this can be.


Hebrews 10:24-25 says: “and let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

Wise and now scientifically proven advice.



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