The Glossary of Social Communication

As social being we follow rules and fulfil roles, and while these rules may have changed over time, communication has always been about understanding and living with each other. The simplest definition of social communication is when two or more people communicate in a specific social environment like family, school, work etc. It is not only about language, but also about gestures, moods, body language, tones, politeness and other factors. Culture too, plays a big role in interpreting speech and body language.

One may wonder, does this mean that people who are good orators, are also good communicators? Contrary to expectation, the greatest experts of social communication are the best listeners. Another mistake people make, is thinking that social communication about connecting and communicating with a large public. In fact, it starts from our self or soul, expanding slowly to include our family, and then our society.

The art of effective social communication is demanding and elusive. Successful interaction occurs when it directs the thought or action to the intended direction without disclosing its intentions and goals. Ineffective communication on the other hand, takes place when the delivery is confusing, and it seems like a repetition of words. A concise sentence can steer the communication in the desired destination. The components of social communication in a linear model, which is still used by the social scientists are as follows- 1. Information with the sender. 2. Conversion of messages (spoken, written, graphics etc.) 3. Recipients’ decoding and understanding 4. Recipients’ feedback

One must keep in mind the 4C’s of communication i.e. being clear, concise, considerate and complete, as failed messages invite discussion and negotiations to create a common ground. Erving Goffman, sociologist and social psychologist, created a new field called micro sociology, which deals with social interaction, be it between two humans, or anything else.

Social communication is of two types: formal and informal. When people in an unbound group express their views on any subject, it is known as informal communication, while formal communication takes place in an organisation where the subject of discussion has already been decided. In these situations, skills such as listening, verbal and written skills, interpersonal skills and presentation skills become very important. A person adept at these skills has a relaxed attitude, appropriate tone, makes eye contact with audience, builds bonds by finding common ground, engages in clear and concise conversation and is willing to incorporate new ideas suggested by listeners. When two people interact informally, it is usually superficial communication i.e. it carries more passion and less information. This can be seen in most political speeches and advertisements, which tend to only convey emotion.

Communication has come a long way. From vocal cords being the only way to talk, we now have technology communicate with any person on this planet. The internet and social media, however, had very humble beginnings. What started out in 1997 with the website sixdegrees.com, a site that allowing people to link each other, led to social media magnates

like YouTube and LinkedIn, which has 238 million members worldwide. These platforms continue to remodel and partner with each other to strengthen and create new features. These complex and elaborate ways to communicate, though, have made social communication more ornamental and less real. Communication is the primary means by which people affect one another, a tool to resolve conflict without misunderstanding. Proper communication builds relationships, which can act as a buffer for stress, anxiety, and bad days. Thus, social communication is crucial for good mental health.

In 2013, Social Communication Disorders (SCD) was recognized by the American Psychiatric Association. This helped them distinguish it from autism, which is was previously classified under. People with SCD have difficulties in using verbal and non-verbal languages for social purposes because of their problem with pragmatics—the ability to use and under social language and cues in their correct context. Thus, social media is a boon for them, as they tailor their responses as much as required, while taking their time to understand the messages sent to them. A robot called ‘Paro’ has also been used for their treatment, and the response is encouraging. However, our knowledge of human behaviour and relationships remain essential for all communication; a robot cannot completely, or effectively replace all human communication.

Picture Credits: gradeslam



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