August 25, 2020  |  David R. Novak

Communication and Change

Communication and Change

Among other things (information, meaning), communication is about change — movement from state to state. Old form to new. Change is always happening but we don’t often feel it due to incrementality. It happens just a little bit at a time. Change also quite often feels like stasis, which is quite sneaky.

The fact that you communicate at all — that you talk and interact with other humans — is all the evidence we need that change is always happening. Every time you converse or interact with someone, both of you leave the interaction different even if only-so-slightly.

Change happens through communication.

It’s a hard lesson, I suppose, that change is the only constant. Buddhist monks seem to get this. Darwin got it. (Astro)physicists seem to get it what with their talk of the always expanding universe and and vibrating electron strings and all that.

Change goes beyond communication but communication is central to it, at least when it comes to people. Our words and behaviors (and those of others) form into structures, patterns of doing things, and influence individual behavior. There are planned, formal changes and informal changes. Corporate reorganizations and the more buddhist ideas of change as being everywhere around us all the time. Communication is how change happens. Let’s explore some of the connections between change and communication.

Change and Relationships

Think about any relationship you have. That relationship is different now than when it started. This is because you’ve communicated with the other person. Over and over and over. Or maybe just a few times…it doesn’t matter. Every relationship changes over time. This is because we communicate and interact.

To make sense of our relationships, it’s tempting to think of them as stable and maybe you could sometimes stay certain relationships are more stable than others. But the reality is that in most relationships, even if they feel stable, stability is an easily disrupted status. It doesn’t take much for a relationship to change and evolve.

Every individual person changes from second-to-second every day (Scary to think about, right?). And if that’s true for you, it’s true for others. If both people are changing, then how can the interaction between them not be changing? Reliability and predictability are not the same as stability and stasis. Every time we communicate with someone, every time we converse, every time any information is exchanged and meaning is formed — we are changed, even if just a tiny little bit.

Every communication is action. With all actions, something changes.Relationships are always unfinished.

Punctuated & Gradual

Change can come in punctuated forms: a divorce, a downsize, a death. These moments *feel* like change — when you know that going forward, nothing will quite be the same. Communication facilitates these punctuated moments. Maybe, as with a divorce or breakup, it often does so in a rush or flurry of intensity. With a downsize, maybe there are rumors and then you’re called into an office and let go. With death, interestingly, it’s the *lack* of possibility of communication that intensifies our reaction. These are just a few examples of punctuated change, there are many others. But the punctuated nature of some changes must not blind us to the fact that change is more often incremental.

Gradual change is the elusive one. It happens without us noticing. Yet, these small changes are stimulated or facilitated by communication just as punctuated, formal changes are. Communication doesn’t stimulate change only when we notice it. It happens in each conversation, a little bit at a time, shifting and molding your relationship just a tiny little bit. After each interaction, your relationship absorbs that most recent exchange to take on a very slightly different form. We exit and enter every communication interaction slightly different though we may not perceive any change to ourselves at all.

Change Is Constant, But It Isn’t Permanent; The Outcomes of Change

We think of change as a new state. Something was, then it changed, now it is. Your relationship used to be one way, then X happened, then things were different. But change is a constant presence. Any given change isn’t permanent, just the current status. And change often happens on a very small and graduate scale. It’s not just the big disruptive fissures that signify a new State B after State A. Change can be slow and might not feel much like what we think change feels like at all.

Change can be lots of things: new behaviors, a new way of relating to one another, something you feel about the other person, or some new information that primes people to act in some way. Change can be big or small, but it happens through communication.

Concept of Com | Ontology