Communication can be described as an interactive exchange between two or more people, endowed with intentionality and a certain level of awareness, in which meanings are shared on the basis of symbolic and conventional systems, according to the culture of reference. Communication is a constitutive dimension of the social, cognitive, cultural and relational aspects of a person.
The most in-depth studies on communication were carried out by Watzlawick et al. (1967) in Palo Alto. The authors elaborated a model of “circular communication” theorizing that it is impossible to extrapolate the person from the context of relationships in which he or she is inserted. Everyone lives within networks of relationships that influence them and in turn influence the others with whom they come into contact. Communication is therefore a circular process that starts from one subject, reaches another and returns to the starting subject, in a circular process that involves feedback.
In 1967 Watzlawick published the “Pragmatic of human communication” in which he postulated the axioms of communication, these were described as self-evident truths, i.e. principles that do not require further demonstrations.
The axioms are the following:
1. “It is impossible not to communicate”: Even when words are not used, behaviours can transmit messages, even silence is valued as a message.
2. “Every communication has a content and a relationship aspect, so that the second one classifies the first and is therefore meta-communication”. The content of the message is not sufficient for understanding it, for the message to be clear it must be accompanied by a specific intonation, facial expression, etc. The information to be transmitted is defined as the content, while the way it is communicated is the meta-content.
3. “The nature of communication depends on the punctuation of the communication sequences between communicators”. A clear communication is a communication with a shared punctuation, with a clear beginning and an agreement between the messages to be considered premises and those to be considered conclusions, between causes and effects, between before and after.
4. “Human beings communicate both digitally and analogically”. The first is verbal language, the second is non-verbal language. Both are activated during the communicative act and are fundamental to correctly convey the message.
5. “Communicative exchanges are symmetrical or complementary, depending on whether they are based on equality or difference”. The interlocutors can occupy a different hierarchical place: symmetrical communications occur between people of equal rank (e.g. between friends, classmates, colleagues) while asymmetrical communications occur between people who are not on the same level with regards to power or authority.