Are We Telling Or Communicating?


Nobel laureate and renowned playwright George Bernard Shaw quoted,

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

We all have been communicating.

An infant who can’t talk can communicate!

A speech impaired human can communicate too!

We can communicate even in our subconscious state (dreams)!

7,20,00,000 plus items appear per second when we type ‘communication’ on Google. The reason communication is one of the most searched things is that everyone does it but seldom excel in it.

Webster defines communication as a process to give information, exchange of ideas, or to express thoughts.

Webster also defines telling as an act of giving information by speaking or writing.

In such a scenario, there is hardly any difference between the two terms; however, they are conceptually drastically different.

The differences are:

  • Telling is just an act of giving information, whereas communication is an act of providing information to get the desired action.

Envision a child watching Television amidst his exams, and his mother asks him to switch off the Television and start to study. He doesn’t listen to her and continues with his show, and perhaps she will feel or maybe judge that the child either is not interested in studies or is turning obstinate. But, was the mother communicating with the child or just asking him to study?

Communication is telling, which has a purpose. In this incident, the mother’s purpose was not merely to tell the child to study, whereas her objective would be that the child should actually study. In the latter, her choice of words, her tonality, and her physiology would have changed because she knew her purpose.

  • Telling begins with words, but communication does not begin with words or any other form of expression, it begins at the thought level.

A lot of people blame their lack of proficiency in English or limited vocabulary as the cause of the inability to communicate; however, it is not the communication armor that is important but clarity of thought which makes communication clear & concise. Communication does not begin when you express (with or without words), but communication begins when you decide to express in the mind. Communication comes with clarity of thought, and then expression ceaselessly gets clearer.

Remember, communication is the most creative pursuit of the mind.

  • Telling is speaker oriented, whereas communication is listener oriented.

As the adage goes, “One size does not fit all,” similarly communication is not about the speaker and his style; it is about the listener.

In telling it is a mere exchange of information; hence, a speaker can adapt his style and deliver the information. In communication, however, it is imperative to know who, what and why of the listener so that the message expressed, yields the desired action.

As Stephen Covey, author of self- help Bible, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People suggests that to communicate, seek first to understand then to be understood.

Thus Communication is about You & Not Me!


4 thoughts on “Are We Telling Or Communicating?

  1. It’s important that we all should know every action is part of communicating something. And not telling/answering is also part of communication.

  2. Well explained about telling and communication,Anyone who understands the distance between can communicate very well, Thank You for Sharing information

  3. Can’t agree more, “Clarity of thought” is perhaps most important aspect in communication. Excellent article !!! Thank you, keep doing the good work, profound regards

  4. I do not even know how I ended up here, but I thought this post was good. I don’t know who you are but definitely you’re going to a famous blogger if you are not already 😉 Cheers!

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