Communication is defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as “a process by which information is exchanged between individuals through a common system of symbols, signs, or behavior.” What does that actually mean, though? Communication methods are intended to deliver a message between two or more parties. We use it to communicate our thoughts, ideas, announcements, and/or information to another party. It is essential for survival. You must have some way of communication to function independently. Luckily our communication methods have continued to grow over the years.

We know cavemen learned to talk, but how has communication developed through the years? Take a look at the loose timeline (below) brought to you by Wikipedia. These may not be 100% accurate, but they give us a general idea of how communication methods have developed over time.

We are lucky to live in an age with many methods of communication. If you stop to think about it, how often are you in a situation where communication is impossible? Not often. Think about when your phone dies, or you’re unable to get ahold of someone immediately; we begin to panic. We are used to instant communication, and when it is not possible, we feel uncomfortable. Why? This is because we know communication is essential.

Recently I heard someone say, “Exceptional communication is what creates success. People are moving fast, and we’re all using different systems and coming from different experiences.” This is a lot to unpack. First, I love the idea that “exceptional communication creates success.” When working in a group toward a common goal, communication is not only needed, it is essential. How else can you work toward the “common” goal unless you are united on what that goal is? How do we collaborate to come to a common goal? We must communicate effectively to paint the picture of what we are trying to portray. Then if each member is clearly aligned, the project will likely be a success, since the team took the time to ensure everyone had the same understanding.

We move so fast in our world today, and there is no doubt that communication has gotten quicker. We have become conditioned to this fast-paced communication so that when it slows, it bothers us. How often do we get frustrated when a text doesn’t send right away or a call drops? It inconveniences us, which frustrates us. However, we must be careful that clear and effective communication is not lost through this quick communication. Sometimes when we communicate quickly, we leave out details. While these details may not seem important to one person, those could be integral details to another which helps them gain a better understanding of the goal.

What is my point? Is it to slow down communication? Not at all. It is to be aware of people’s different communication styles and preferences. Just because you understand something a certain way does not mean someone else will understand it in that exact same way. We are all different and come from different experiences and backgrounds that have shaped our perceptions. Let’s cut each other some slack, and remember we all communicate differently.

COMMUNICATION TIMELINE