The biggest luxury

The biggest luxury is the luxury of human communication.

Dear All:
Have you ever dialed a phone number trying to reach a particular service and instead of a person you heard a recorded voice asking you to make a selection as to what you would like to do next? Most of us have, probably, had this experience. How did you feel about it?

According to Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, “La grandeur d’un métier est peut-être, avant tout, d’unir des hommes: il n’est qu’un luxe véritable, et c’est celui des relations humaines” (The greatness of a profession is, probably, above all to unite people: the biggest luxury is the luxury of human relationships). This quote underlines the importance of relationship-building between people. The basis of any relationship is communication.

Are you working on a group project for a university course, conducting research with a team of researchers, organizing a conference? In any of these cases communication is the key, the better it is, the more successful the outcomes are likely going to be. Certainly, we know this, but how easy it is to neglect this.

Yes, communication is a luxury, but whether you are a student taking a  university course or a professor (particularly) offering a course, let communication be abundant. Importantly, choose a better kind of communication. Face-to-face communication can be better than a phone call. A phone call, can be better than an email. An email can be better than an SMS (Short Message Service – a text message over phone). Why so? The reason for this is the ability (or its absence) to use nonverbal means of communication. The importance of nonverbal means of communication is great and compared to words, nonverbal means of communication can communicate 93% of information as compared to 7% of information communicated by words.

When we speak face-to-face, we not only hear words, but also see the facial expressions, the expression of the eyes, the gestures, the body posture, the smile, etc. Thus, for example, when a student approaches a professor, the professor can get a better feedback concerning whether the student has understood the explanations or needs more help. In turn, nonverbal means of communication also help the professor to be a better instructor by offering information in more expressive way and, therefore, in a more lasting way too. This role of nonverbal means of communication is supported by abundant research that is consistent in that nonverbal means of communication work in two ways: they help to understand the information that is being communicated better (1) and also help to communicate information in a more efficient and effective way (2) (see e.g. Pankovskyi, 2011).

The discussion in this post started by asking the question concerning experiences with “communicating”with a recorded voice message. As for me, the answer to this question is – it depends. If the choices are as simple as to select language in which the communication is going to take place and at any time I can press “0” to be connected with an operator it may be a good use of technology to facilitate communication, but if one has to go through numerous choices which one is unable to skip and pressing “0” terminates the call, well the company that has such practice may lose a customer. In an ideal world where all other conditions are the same except the chance of speaking with a person versus going through a chain of numerous selections, the first choice is more preferable for me. How about you?

Lastly, yes, communication is a luxury because it can help to achieve goals and to make a project a success, but communication does not have to be scarce, it has to be abundant. With the development of modern technology one has more choices with respect to communication and it is up to each person to make a better choice in every given situation. Communication does not have to be long, it has to be effective and as long as is necessary to communicate an idea in a respectful and meaningful way.

Pankovskyi, I. (2011). Call for nonverbal means of communication in SLA. AATSEEL Newsletter: Psychology of language learning: San Juan Bautista, CA, USA. 14-15.


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