Impeccable Mixed-State Communication: Part 1

It is difficult to overstate the pertinence of effective communication, be it verbal or written, particularly if one wants to move steadily up the academic or professional ladder. Without exaggeration, for instance, the utter neglect of key communication skills in the professional space is tantamount to planning for an early career death. How one can gain mastery of this life skill is a question a plethora of materials centering on the subject of communication have, at different times, tried to tackle head-on. However, like a recurring decimal, the mistakes many communication enthusiasts seek to correct appear to be the same mistakes they, more often than not, continue to make. These blockades, as I like to call them, deal huge blows to how effective we come across when communicating our ideas and thoughts. Fortunately, these blockades are not without remedies.

Credit: Austin Distel via Unsplash

Human communication, for simplicity, is two-fold: verbal and written. Owing to space constraints, this article would be one of three parts. First, we will consider the meaning of communication, and then address verbal and written communication distinctly. In the meantime, we stick to exploring what communication is, and subsequently, we proceed to examine verbal exchanges and just how intricately linked they are with non-verbal cues. This article seeks to do two things: first, we explore what it means to communicate and what it means to do so effectively, then we proceed to unravel the mixed state of verbal and non-verbal communication; second, identify common mistakes associated with the mixed state, and proffer practicable solutions.

According to the Britannica dictionary, communication is defined as "The act or process of using words, sounds, signs, or behaviors to express or exchange information or to express your ideas, thoughts, feelings, etc., to someone else." It is lucid from the above definition that communication involves at least two entities, and there is an exchange of thoughts and ideas. Usually, ideas and thoughts are exchanged through a medium. Depending on the nature of the information to be exchanged, it is imperative that the suitable medium for exchange is deployed, else, the efficacy of the exchanged ideas may be watered-down: this alludes to the strong nexus between the medium of communication and the efficacy of the message sent — this is the concept of media richness.

Credit: Antenna via Unsplash
Credit: Antenna via Unsplash

Moreover, it is crucial to probe what constitutes effective communication. According to Coursera, effective communication is the process of exchanging ideas, thoughts, opinions, and knowledge, so that the message is received and understood with clarity and purpose. Ostensibly, effectiveness in communication is attained when clarity and purpose of the message sent is unhampered. In other words, there is no mismatch between what was sent and what was received. Also, it is worth mentioning that verbal communication on its own is somewhat incomplete, as there is an accompanying non-verbal channel that, strangely so, seems to play a major role in how our ideas come across. According to, non-verbal communication makes up for 70−90% of communication. This is shocking, considering the fact we barely utilize non-verbal cues during verbal communication. Needless to say, for an effective and flawless exchange of ideas between entities, a decent tuning of both verbal and non-verbal constituents of communication is imperative, as the neglect of one over the other or the stark imbalance between both may hurt our chances of clear communication.

In addition, one could argue that non-verbal cues are not always important as audio calls do not require physical presence, let alone non-verbal cues. This is true, however, understanding the concept of media richness established above would help build an understanding of the best point of employment.

In the second part of the article, we will look into the common pitfalls of verbal communication and how to avoid them. Stay tuned!

Master's student, Advanced Quantum and Nanophotonic Systems