Communicating - or getting our message across - is the concern of us all in our daily lives in whatever language we happen to use. Learning to be better communicators is important to all of us in both our private and public lives. Better communication means better understanding of ourselves and others; less isolation from those around us and more productive, happy lives. We begin at birth by interacting with those around us to keep warm, dry and fed. We learn very soon that the success of a particular communication strategy depends on the willingness of others to understand and on the interpretation they give to our meaning. Whereas a baby's cry will be enough to bring a mother running with a clean nappy and warm milk in one instance, it may produce no response at all in another. We learn then that meaning is never one-sided. Rather, it is negotiated, between the persons involved. As we grow up our needs grow increasingly complex, and along with them, our communication efforts. Different words, we discover, are appropriate in different settings. The expressions we hear in the playground or through the bedroom door may or may not be suitable at the supper table. We may decide to use them anyway to attract attention. Along with words, we learn to use intonation, gestures, facial expression, and many other features of communication to convey our meaning to persons around us. Most of our communication strategies develop unconsciously, through imitation of persons we admire and would like to resemble to some extent - and the success we experience in our interactions. Formal training in the classroom affords us an opportunity to gain systematic practice in an even greater range of communicative activities. Group discussions, moderated by the teacher, give young learners important practice in taking turns, getting the attention of the group, stating one's views and perhaps disagreeing with others in a setting other than the informal family or playground situations with which they are familiar. Classrooms also provide practice in written communications of many kinds. Birthday cards are an early writing task for many children. Reports, essays, poems, business letters, and job application forms are routinely included in many school curricula and provide older learners with practical writing experience. A concern for communication extends beyond school years and into adult life. Assertiveness training, the development of strategies for conquering stage fright, and an awareness of body language - the subtle messages conveyed by posture, hand movement, eyes, smile - are among the many avenues to improved communication as adults. The widespread popularity of guides to improving communication within couples and between parents and children illustrates our ever present concern with learning to communicate more effectively in our most intimate relationships, to understand and be understood by those closest to us. Training of an even more specialized nature is available to those whose professional responsibilities or aspirations require it Advice on how to dress and appear 'businesslike', including a recommendation for the deliberate use of technical jargon to establish authority, is available to professional women who want to be taken seriously in what has historically been considered a man's world. Specialized courses in interviewing techniques are useful for employers and others who interview people frequently in their professional lives. One of the important lessons to be learnt here, as in other communicative contexts, is that what matters is not the intent but Die interpretation of the communicative act. Conveyance of meaning in unfamiliar contexts requires practice in the use of the appropriate register or style of speech. If a woman wants to sound like a business executive, she has to talk the way business executives talk while they are on the job. The same register would of course be inappropriate when talking of personal matters with a spouse or intimate friend. Similarly, executives who must cope with an investigative reporter may be helped to develop an appropriate style. They need to learn how to convey a sense of calm and self-assurance. Effective communication in this particular context may require the use of language to avoid a direct answer or to hide one's intent while appearing to be open and forthright In both instances an understanding of what is really happening, as opposed to what one would like to see happening is the first step towards improved communication.
Communication, then, is a continuous process of expression, interpretation and negotiation.