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Human Communication

February 11th, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

In the last couple of years I began becoming interested in non-verbal communication and specifically non-explicit communication such as sounds, movements, and expressions where the communicating parties have no prearranged denotative form for the sound, movement, or expression. Prior to my interest, I eschewed imprecise communication.

Before coming to Thailand, I was told something along the lines of, “The Thai people have their language and they use it amongst themselves while everyone you will meet can pretty much speak English.” In my experience so far, this statement is hogwash! I have met few Thai that know more than a few simple words and phases. Even those that work in tourist oriented stores and restaurants know little more English than necessary to specify the total and many use a calculator to communicate that.

Communication has been interesting and relies on skills we are all born with and develop to different degrees in our life. This is different than ASL or the distinct sign language developed for SCUBA which I have been utilizing the last few days here on the island. I do wish that SCUBA groups had adopted something along the lines of ASL though I understand many reasons why they would not. With sign, the participants in theory both know that the somewhat arbitrary symbol of a shaking hand means, “Something is wrong.” Communication with the Thais has relied on making appropriate faces and since both participants do not have a shared denotative form your communication takes on a very emotional and customized character for every situation.


So far, I have been able to negotiate food on multiple occasions. I have also been able to negotiate a massage and be clear the feet were the only thing I was interested in having rubbed. I have observed that these communications are pleasing and leave a sort of satisfied sense of accomplishment when really not much has been accomplished at all.


I suppose that is all well and good for survival of mammalian species while completely failing to address higher order communication like, “how am I growing”, “how am I being held back”, “what kind of compromises can we make”, and “where would would you like to go for cocktails?”

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