Aktion Frühjahrsputz: Paul Watzlawick – Kommunikationstheorie

Nach der Devise Der Frühling kommt – Entstaube deinen Blog! möchte ich den letzten Artikel zu Vom Schlechten des Guten zum Anlass nehmen, einen älteren Beitrag zu Watzlawicks Kommunikationstheorie aus den Tiefen des Blogs auszugraben. Den Post habe ich damals im Rahmen meines Examens zum Üben in Englisch verfasst (das Examen in Anglistik fand ein paar Tage nach dem in Psychologie statt). Zusammen ergeben die beiden Artikel einen ersten Eindruck von Paul Watzlawicks Arbeit, die wie ich finde äußerst innovativ, wertvoll und vor allem sehr alltagstauglich umsetzbar ist.

Paul Watzlawick
Bildautor: Frachet (Creative Commons)

For my exam in psychology (which was in 2009) I have to study a theory of communication by Paul Watzlawick (1996).

I’m going to line up all the facts, still sticking in my head. Ok, let’s get started:

Basically, Watzlawick came up with 5 axioms for his communicational theory which are as follows  –>

1. You cannot not communicate
meaning: Every action taking place between two parties is communication whether you like it or not. For example, I am sitting in a plane and someone other is bugging me but I really don’t want to talk because I have flight anxiety or just a bad stomach. I have two options now, either I make an answer (doesn’t matter which one) or I do not. Even if I refuse to speak to him or her I still take part in a – non-verbal – communication with the message:  „Hey, don’t speak to me!“
The implication is that one cannot stay out of a communicational act and has to deal with the consequences.

2. A message contains a content and a relationship aspect whereby the latter classifies the former.
Each communicational act contains hints which extend the pure message. These hints are intented to show the hearer how the speaker wants his message to be understood. In pathological communicational relationships the relational side of communication gets more and more important whereas the informational side is neglected.

3. Punctuation
Processes of communication can be divided into different parts or sections (I don’t think I got the right word here, but perhaps the following will clarify it). The nature of a relationship between communication partners depends on how they punctuate these processes. For example: A couple fights all of the time, he is convinced that she has started the argument long ago and she is convinced he did. Each of the partners think that he only reacts to the behaviour of the other. The fact is that you cannot assign a start and an end in processes of communication. They are simply not linear but more like a circle. Even if you would be able to  say who had started a specific argument gazillion years ago it wouldn’t help you to sort everything out.

4. There is analog and digital communication
Analog communication refers to the non-verbal parts of talk like body language, gestures, loudness, mean faces, a smile, even looking away, threatening gestures etc. (example: BUH!!! :evil:)
The digital side of communication is the linguistic code, sentences, the message, what I am saying. Example:  „I am really annoyed that I have to use the word „communication“ so often and no other word will enter my head.“
There is a very nice anecdote for analog communication. In the animal world you have many gestures of threatening meaning „Either you go away and you will not be seen in my territory again or I will rip you in thousand peaces pieces!“ You can express THAT with non-verbal communication. On the other hand, you cannot express with gestures a negation of violence (you can SAY it: „I will NOT harm you“, but they cannot show it with a specific gesture). The rumour is that animals who want to make a point that they won’t harm anybody do it this way: It has been observed that dolphins very carefully take a hand or a foot of their trainer or someone else in their mouth equipped with quite a lot of razor sharp teeth and still more carefully hold it without executing any pressure. If the „victims“ tolerate this action they present them their most sensitive part of the body. The message is: I could harm you very easily but I won’t!

5. You have symmetrical and complementary communication
Relationships between partners are based either on equality or on diversity. Can’t explain THAT in English, hmm..If it is a symmetrical communication partners try to balance the relationship, they tend to achieve an equilibrium. In complementary relationships one partner usually has the „upper hand“ and the other subjugates himself in a way of speaking.

Source:
Watzlawick, P., Beavin, J., Jackson, D. (1996). Menschliche Kommunikation: Formen, Störungen, Paradoxien. Bern, Göttingen, Toronto, Seattle: Hans Huber.

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