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A true measure of person is whether they can apologize or not.

If someone genuinely has wronged you — or acted like an asshole — and they can’t or don’t apologize, beware. It’s a giant, swaying red flag.

Everyone has to apologize from time to time. (Or likely should apologize, anyways.) But how best to apologize? Is there one ideal way? Or certain steps that should be followed? My answers are: Let’s talk about it, probably not, and not exactly.

Better apologies are likely to result in stronger relationships. This is interesting given that the need for apologies only arise from moments of pain, fault, sorrow, shame, hurt, and so forth. …

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One of things that many people fail to realize about communication is that it’s not just about you. It’s not just about getting message across.

It’s about the other person too. They get a say. They are part of the process.

If you want to communicate well, you have to think about your audience. It doesn’t matter if your audience is 1 person or 1000 people. What’s important is thinking about who it is you are communicating . There’s a big difference in communication someone and communicating them.

“Communicating to” someone focuses on things like getting your message across to them, saying what you want to say, and prioritizing your own meaning. That’s part of communication, but it’s ego. If you want to communicate well, you can’t be concerned with only your own outcomes. …

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“Zoom is just not the same. It never will be.” said Miss Alissa in our end-of-year parent-teacher conference.

She’s right.

Zoom calls, now everywhere thanks to the COVID pandemic, aren’t the same as communicating together with other people in shared physical space. Early 2020 onward, thus far, is plenty of evidence for that.

Everyone felt the massive shock in the shift away from direct, in-person communication to a host of different mediated forms: Zoom calls, FaceTime visits, text message exchanges, and so on. Everyone has been impacted: teachers and students, work teams, families, everyone. …

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Grind it out.

Critical thinking and communication are closely related. If you aren’t able to think critically about problems, information, and obstacles as they relate to your relationships, the media you consume, and the conversations you have, you are set up to fail. If you can’t think critically, communication won’t be as good as it possibly can be. Good critical thinking directly influences the quality and nature of the messages you send, the conversations you have, the decisions you make, and the overall quality of your communication interactions.

Critical thinking helps communication improve. And good communication influences critical thinking.

“Critical thinking” means getting beyond just the surface-level questions about a topic or subject during a conversation or discussion. Think of critical thinking as interrogating and investigating an idea, a current state, or potential solution on the merits of its rigor and its usefulness. If you can’t “think critically” well, you’re quite simply at a disadvantage when you communicate. There is a steamroller of disinformation out there, tricky people everywhere, and there are important decisions all over the place! Better critical thinking helps you to analyze problems more adeptly, helps to create better connections with people, and achieves more positive, productive outcomes. …

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Giving feedback is communication we think of communication. That is, while every conversation is communication, giving someone feedback — it could be on anything: something at work, advice about life, or just a normal part of everyday interaction (“Hey, what did you think of my chili?” or “Did I do a good enough job getting this stain out?”) — feels special, punctuated. When we’re giving feedback, we are quite aware that we’re communicating.

Feedback is a smaller, yet essential and natural part of the larger communication whole. It takes many forms.

We’re constantly giving and getting feedback when we communicate, even though we might think of feedback as a formal process such as a boss giving an employee feedback at work. There’s feedback all around us. Big, small, at work, interpersonally, in public, in private — feedback is everywhere. Feedback isn’t confined to annual reviews or conversations about relationships or reactions that the chili is too spicy. …

Old doors conceal a beautiful room once you have passed through their plane of influence.
Old doors conceal a beautiful room once you have passed through their plane of influence.
Pass through to a new way of thinking about “communication style.”

Lots of people believe in “communication styles.”

You shouldn’t.

Do humans have tendencies and sensitivities when communicating? Yes, definitely. We each have our own. But that does that mean you have a communication “style”? Nope.

Having a communication style is to have something you think you can’t change. And nothing, when it comes to communicating, is pre-determined. Style gives the idea that there is some set of behaviors or psychological orientations about how we communicate, instilled so deep within as if to be permanent and impossible to change.

But this isn’t how communication works. Communication styles just aren’t a thing beyond an easy shortcut way to manufacture classifications of people and shortcuts to deal with them. …

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Effective communication. Everyone talks about and seems to be after it.

But what is it?

What is effective communication? What does it mean to communicate effectively?

Do we really know?

Ask 100 people what “effective communication” is, and you’ll get many different answers.

It’s difficult-to-impossible to know what effective communication is because effective communication can be many things. It varies and it’s subjective. It is that tingly spider-sense feeling we get when communication is going well or we feel understood. It’s when we articulate something clearly and someone sees a point of view better. …

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Do you ever struggle to know whether to text, email, or call? Do type out texts and delete? Have you ever hit send and then immediately regretted it? Have you ever decided to set up a phone call because talking is easier than writing? Or maybe you’ve felt disheartened to be physically separate from someone with only a selection of screens to simulate their presence?

If any of that is familiar, then you’ve felt how channels shape communication.

Channels are a key element of communication and directly impact what happens in our exchanges with others.

Channels are an odd mix of tubes and bubbles — and there are a lot of them if you think about it: Texts. Phone calls. Email. Carrier pigeon. Twitter. Zoom. All weirdly similar in that they help us connect to one another. They enable communication, yet are all completely different. …

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Communications and communication are different things. refers to human processes of producing and interpreting meaning. This process is dynamic, always symbolic and referential, and fundamentally experiential all the way down to the individual level.

are other amazing things and my focus here: networks and systems, technologies and schedules, designs and infrastructures. All communications.

Communications and communication and connected — two parts of the same human interaction whole. But each less of a bifurcated opposite and more of a connected and mutually influential side of the same coin.

Communication, the S, is all about meaning-making, interaction, and symbolic relationships. …

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Transparency isn’t what you think it is.

Transparency is a god-term. People want it. Calls for it are everywhere. “I’m aiming to be transparent here,” you might hear in everyday conversation.

Transparency is supposedly one of the great communication achievements.

Or so we tell ourselves.

People widely accept the idea that the best communication is “transparent.” Transparency is among the most cherished and celebrated ideals and aspirations of contemporary society, seen as central to participation and democracy itself, and a countervailing force against corruption and evil and grand solution to nearly all social, political, and relationship ills.

But is it?

The idea of transparency goes largely unquestioned. We say we want transparency from our social institutions (exs., governments, corporations, organizations, legal systems, etc.) and when we do, we are often talking about data, information, reporting, accountability, and the like. …


David R. Novak PhD

Writer. Trying to explain human communication simply. Fascinated by human interaction. PhD in Communication. @davidrnovak

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