Communication between lifeforms is as old as life itself. For the most simple, monocellular organisms, the medium of communication was sending and receiving of specific molecules which carry important information. They also used some form of what we will now call touch. In general, the interactive communication preceded by billions of years the development of the nervous system, which among higher life forms, is mostly used or communication purposes.
Homo Sapiens, from its onset, used communication extensively. Because it was able to think, generalize and create abstract concepts, the development of communication and interaction made a quantum leap. It was using not only sound, and resulting from it speech and various form of signaling, but also vision and even smell.
The general development of our species depended and has been accompanied by the development of our interactive communication. It was and is necessary for cooperation, which was the key element in our survival. We can safely say that without highly developed interactive communication, we would not survive.
Communication among humans took another leap with the invention of a symbolic visual way of expressing the message needed to be transferred. As you may expect, I am talking here about writing, which was invented around 4,000 – 6,000 years ago. Unfortunately, many of the earliest forms, such as the oldest of them Vinci script from the Danube valley culture, writing from Indus valley city-states or Mycenean Script A remain undecoded.
Interactive direct communication face to face
Let us jump a few thousand years and end up in our 21 century BC. Communication and interaction are the heart of our present civilization. In the previous chapter were discussed the forms and impact of non-interactive communication via TV, papers and internet sites, where we are passive recipients who, at the most, can make comments to the presented text.
Now we will enter a much more challenging territory of interactive communication both direct face to face as well as via internet media. We will begin the first one, which involves two persons or possibly more.
Its character depends on several factors. Here are a few of them: do participants know and their mutual feelings towards each other, their views, opinions, education, etc. Independently of these aspects, from the wisdom living point of view, the most important is, to begin and continue with the attitude of openness. It means to listen to what other person is saying instead of mentally preparing a response. We should listen to the tone of voice and also we can add looking at the other person and, if possible, to look directly in her or his eyes. In other words, the totality of the interaction is equally important as its intellectual content.
You have to use patience and keep listening until the person finishes, which may be fairly challenging. At this point, the most important is not to respond immediately. Ideally, it would be to make a gap during which our mind rests in wisdom, but even if we fail to do that, resisting the desire to make an immediate response is highly recommended. After that, your discernment helps you to decide to respond or not. Not responding maybe sometimes impossible if the talking person explicitly asks you for an answer, but otherwise, it is up to you to decide, remembering that in a proper situation, not responding is a very powerful form of a message. However, if you do respond, the critically important is not to become angry, because, at such point, the communication is broken and degenerates into a quarrel. To prevent it, you may utilize the attitude of dignity because many of us are deeply habituated to indulge in our anger. Anger gives us the perverse pleasure of excitement and belief that by expressing it, our opinion dominates those of others. It does not mean that not expressing anger blocks experiencing it, to the contrary. In such a situation, we have a golden opportunity to return to a resting mind in wisdom, which my be vivid and coloured by subtle humour. Also destructive may be disagreeing and trying to convince another person that our point of view is correct. It most likely provokes the other person to reinforce her or his opinion.
In the case when the speaker views coincide with ours, the situation is somewhat easier but still challenging. A pause before responding is equally important. Also, we should use discernment to decide to simply agree or to try adding our views to expand the topic.
Interactive textual communication via internet media
The widespread use of mobile phones and other internet-based media dramatically increased the possibilities of interactive communication. I will begin with textual ones. For millennia the text was used in the form of letters sent, via some form of post, to the recipient. There are a few fundamental differences between this kind and face to face communication. The most important one is the lack of speed associated with writing and delay caused by the post-delivery. These factors permit us to exercise more reflection while creating a letter and also removes the possibility of immediate receiving a response.
These „slow-down” factors disappeared when in the nineties of the last century, aroused a possibility of sending text messages (SMS) via cellphones and email via computer networks. In the beginning, their impact was limited because of the clumsiness of typing text on cell-phones and relative rarity of access to email networks. It all changed very quickly with the arrival of smartphones, and by now, in addition to SMS and email, we can use of such media platforms like Facebook Messenger and Whatsapp or Google’s Hangouts, and similar. All of them made the textual forms of interactive communication an integral part of our everyday life.
Their personal and social impact must not be underestimated. The most important new factor in these forms is speed. We can produce a message quickly, and the recipient may respond instantly. Of course, it is not necessary, but there is a tempting opportunity to do that. Also, the „facelessness” adds an opportunity to write something which rarely we would say being in the face-to-face situation.
In the case of these messaging conversations, the situation has some key differences while communicating face to face. The fact that we do not see the face of the person to whom we are talking makes it easier to produce conflicts and to cut the contact than when we see each other.
So far, we discussed one to one forms of communication. However, lately, more and more important role play textual communication in which many people can participate. Particularly popular are such a form as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The situation which we encounter has no precedence because nothing similar was ever invented. There is a topic presented by a person who initiates the interchange, but it can often branch and go all over the place. The messages presented are usually in response to someone else’s earlier message and express their approval, disapproval usually presenting opinions. They can spread with the unbelievable speed, and some of the messages can be highly abusive and even life-threatening, and if someone takes it all seriously can produce serious psychological harm.
As far as wisdom living is concerned, the key suggestion is to slow down. The easily available speed of interchanges produces excitement and becomes, in some cases, highly addictive. The main attitudes which we should use to prevent such a situation are dignity and discernment. Discernment can be applied to decide should we use our time to read such things at all, and if we decide so, use dignity in preventing the indulgence to continue in spite of knowing that we should stop. It is amazing how seductive it is to go on clicking, reading and clicking again. Also, dignity helps to protect us from the seduction of making an immediate and sharp response. Finally, if we decide to get involved, openness, discernment and humour are invaluable to make our „contribution” as helpful as we can master.
Interactive face to face communication via internet media
Modern technology made possible to use internet media, providing voice and video for interactive communication between one-to-one and even several people. At the first look, it appears that such a form of communication is equivalent to the direct one that we already discussed earlier on. But they are not fully equivalent for several reasons. Some are simply technical because often, the quality of the transmitted picture and voice is far from perfect but there are also deeper differences. Close between participants during interaction permits the transfer of the energy of mind which is not, so far, „officially” recognized by physics.
Nevertheless, it is utilized without knowing its physical and mathematical model. For example, in large gatherings, when the crowd becomes unified by a charismatic leader, like Adolf Hitler, thousands of people were going into a frenzy. That is hardly possible during a large gathering of participants during the various type of webinars and similar. Also, close distance helps in creating collective decisions and the emergence of group intelligence.
Nevertheless, we like it or not, the internet-based form of face-to-face communication becomes increasingly popular. Therefore it is important to apply the principles of wisdom living to that. Despite differences in the power of such interactions, they are basically identical with those discussed above in the section about direct face-to-face communication, so I am not repeating the suggestions made there.
Before ending, I would like to emphasize once again the importance of properly dealing with mass textual communication and interaction systems like Facebook or Twitter which also provides a possibility of transmitting pictures and videos. We have to be able to resist the seduction of spending too much time while using or often just playing with them. This seductive quality is difficult to understand by a person who never was involved with such activities, but the use of these platforms becomes a fast-growing trend. To be able to appreciate their magnitude, here are a few figures: there are 2,5 billion active users of Facebook worldwide (that is one-third of the human population of our planet) and it is increasing about 40% yearly; there are about 500 millions of tweets sent a day via Twitter and over 1,2 billions of Instagram users. It seems to be sufficient to rest my case, as lawers are often saying.
However, increasingly while communicating via such platform as Skype, Facebook Messenger and some others, we can see some kind of an image each other. Its quality depends on many factors that make it more or less similar to direct face to face communication.