The Communication Continuum

What is it that gives other people confidence in you?

What is it that defines you as a credible, confident, authoritative communicator of ideas and vision? Gives you gravitas? Says to people that they should take you seriously?

It’s pretty simple really. It’s all about space and time.

In (not quite) the same way physics brings space and time together to form the space-time continuum, so it is that how we bring together our personal relationship to space and time will define our impact as communicators. A Communication Continuum, if you like. 

Space and Time

The theory of space-time moved physics from a position where time is a universal constant regardless of where you view it from, to one where the passage of time depends on the velocity of the observer and can’t be separated from three-dimensional space. While you might be wondering where I’m going with this, it actually is a neat metaphor for the way we need to think about our communication.

In the “classical” way of thinking about our impact, we could imagine that regardless of who our audience is, we need to communicate in the same way. Further, because we are rational, intelligent and have a lot of experience, the way we communicate will be understood as we intend by those around us.

In my experience this is rarely the case.

Taking more

So how then can we use a communication theory of space and time to help? The quick answer is that we need to take more of both. More Space and more Time.

To start with the latter; we need to take more time both for our audience to catch up with our ideas and to give time for us to think about what we want to say next. The articulation of an idea isn’t something that just happens as you open your mouth, it needs to have begun in the body. For it’s the relationship with the body, more than just the head, that really helps a thought to be articulated clearly. The verbal communication of a thought is a physical journey that starts in the brain as an initial idea, causing the diaphragm to flatten, the lungs to expand before contracting again, sending air up through the larynx finally to be formed as words in the mouth. This extraordinary physical process needs time. The longer we can take to inhale, or inspire ourselves, the more clear, powerful and articulate our messages are.

Just as in physics, in communication space and time cannot really be separated. And just as we need to take more time, we need to take more space too.

The two dimensions of space

Space can be thought of in two ways. First, there is the space we’re in and our relationship to it, and second, the space within us. The space within us is both literal and metaphorical. At its most literal, the more fully and deeply we breathe, the more our body accommodates the inhaled breath and more space we take up. In doing so, we physically expand and our presence is actually increased. The metaphorical space is the space that the breath gives us to think and form thoughts. It’s closely linked to Time as it’s in that space that we take time for ourselves and give time to our audience.

The second way to think about space is in terms of how we interact with it. How do we engage with the environment we are in? This isn’t just a case of where do I stand in a room, although that can certainly be a part of it. It is actually to do with how well we see the (physical and emotional) environment we are engaging with, as well as how available we make ourselves to others.

The Communication Continuum

In this way, space and time are in an inseparable relationship in communication. If we use them in the right way, we increase self-awareness. From self-awareness we can build other-awareness and when we have both self-awareness and other-awareness working together, we can become incredibly powerful communicators.

In my next post, coming on December 13, I’ll be explaining in more detail on how to use space and time to create the impact you want.