Verbal communication is made of symbols (words) which represent feelings, ideas, objects, and people.
Symbols have three qualities: they are arbitrary, abstract, and ambiguous. These qualities are why miscommunication occurs.
Symbols are arbitrary:
- They are not fundamentally connected to what they represent.
- “That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet.” Shakespeare R & J
- Certain words seem right because as a society we agree to use them in particular ways.
- Language changes as we invent new words.
- Meanings change over time.
|60 years ago||Today|
|Gay = happy||Gay = sexual orientation|
|Apple = fruit||Apple = computer|
|Mouse = furry mammal||Mouse = computer component|
Symbols are ambiguous:
- They don’t have clear cut, precise meanings.
- While words don’t mean exactly the same thing to everyone, there’s an agreed-upon range of meaning.
- Ambiguity leads to misunderstandings.
- To minimize ambiguity, we should be as clear as possible when speaking w/ others.
Symbols are abstract:
- They are not concrete or tangible.
- They stand for ideas, people, events, objects, feelings, etc. but they are not the things they represent.
- As symbols get more abstract, overgeneralizations occur. This is bad.
|Even Less Abstract||Textbook|
|Concrete & Specific||Communication Mosaics by Julia Wood|