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Axioms of Communication


Axiom is a self-evident rule or principle relating to a particular subject

          An axiom is a self-evident rule or principle relating to a particular subject. In communication, it is important to understand the axioms of communication and how they affect the communication process in order to understand the communication situation and interpret miscommunication before it occurs. Understanding these rules can help us to develop greater knowledge and become stronger speakers, communicators, and people. 

          Communication is:

  • Unique: There is no one way of seeing or doing anything. There are many ways. Every person has a unique way of viewing the world, analyzing an audience, organizing a message, choosing a topic, or delivering a speech. The more we allow others to have their own particular view, the better we become at understanding them and increasing our individual knowledge. We each have our own frame of reference that guides us in our decision-making process. We may not even do things the same way twice depending on the situations we face. 

  • Transactional: Communication occurs simultaneously. It is happening at the same time, and there is a transaction of sorts between elements.

  • Unavoidable: You cannot NOT communicate. Even the smallest response or movement may have meaning. A raised eyebrow, a frown, a head nod, a smile may send a message. Even silence can be perceived as communicating boredom, anger, being in thought or acceptance. Actions may be unavoidable communications as well. For example, how you stand, what you wear, your visual aid choice, all can convey messages and meaning. 

  • Content or Relational based: These are two aspects of communication that affect how messages are sent and received. Some communicators tend to focus more on what is happening or being said (the content) of the communication. While other communicators tend to focus on the relationship (relational) aspects of the communication situation. It can be helpful to see both aspects and how they affect the transference and reception of the message.

  • Irreversible: Once a message is said, you can’t take it back—it is out there. You can try to placate or smooth over the other person if what you have said was perceived to be offensive; however, there is no going back. The lesson of irreversibility is to think before you communicate. As a public speaker, this is especially true. You have the opportunity to think about what you want to say, how you want to say it, and what words you want to use to convey the meaning/message as part of the speechmaking process. 

  • A Process: Communication follows a process that aids in the delivery of meaning. There are certain rules, actions, and steps in communication. This process helps the science of communication as it can be broken down and examined. 

  • Not a Panacea: Communication is not a cure-all. Just communicating sometimes cannot fix miscommunications and sometimes can make the situation worse. 

  • Dynamic: Communication is not static. Due to the transactional nature of communication, it is always moving, in flux, reflective of the situation. It is not a flat line—there are hills and valleys of dialogue, rhythms, and words, creating and conveying meaning. 

  • Continuous: Similar to the irreversible, dynamic, transactional, unavoidable nature of communication, communication may not always have a clear beginning or end. We may join a communication situation already in process, at different times, or leave at different times. The communication itself may already be occurring before we enter or may continue even after we choose to leave it.

  • Complex: It is intricate with many meanings and nuances that can lead to confusion or miscommunication or success. No situation or context will ever be the same as another, each has its own history, players, influences, and frame of reference.

  • Nonsequential: There is no set order to the communication process; its transactional nature keeps it ever-flowing and changing. 

  • Unrepeatable: As soon as you say a message, word, or even a sound, the receiver begins to decode the meaning. There is no second chance. This is similar to the irreversible nature of communication. Even if you try to say the same thing again, the receiver may not decode the same meaning they originally did. Given the changes in time and space (even a split second), once a message has been said the interpretation and meaning will be different. For speakers, this can be an excellent tool for repetition and reinforcement of ideas. 

          For communicators of all disciplines, understanding and recognizing the axioms of communication helps us to analyze and navigate communication situations better and, in turn, become better communicators. 

Review Questions

1) What is an axiom?

2) Why is communication unavoidable?

3) Explain why communication is irreversible. 

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