I get various iterations of the question “Why communication?” as a response when others ask about what I am studying for my PhD. This has to do, I think, with the fact that communication is often taken for granted as a basic function of life, like breathing or sleeping. Talking is equated with communicating. Given this mindset, each of us have been communicating ever since we learned how to talk as children. How can you study something so basic and why?
Short answer: Because I’m all about creating communication breakthroughs that help to create a better reality.
Consider moments in life in which you experienced a communication breakthrough. Maybe you tried a new way of talking to loved one during those nasty recurring fights that ultimately eliminated that repetitive interaction. Maybe at work you changed the way the stale staff meeting is scheduled or arranged, leading to an entirely different conversation with new insights, priorities, or objectives. Thinking about how things were before and after such breakthroughs reveals a hopeful truth: a new, better reality (more efficient, engaging, peaceful, empowering, etc.) is created through better communication. Some scholars refer to development of such breakthroughs as generativity.
When we view communication as a process of creating messages to facilitate shared meaning–or more boldly, to drive action–the distinction between communication and strategic communication becomes more clear. In fact, there are a maddeningly endless number of ways to organize and present a message, each of which are more or less strategic than the others. These are choices that we make–whether we are aware of this fact or not–as we create and share messages in our lives or in our work. How should the message be framed? What language, phrases, terms, or figurative devices should be used? Who should deliver the message? How and when should it be transmitted? How should it be tailored for the audience(s)? And so on.
So, why do I study communication? Because I want to immerse myself in the research to get to the bottom of these questions, which inform how to create more strategic messages that help to bring about more understanding, less stigma, more motivation, and more action!