To be able to do business with people, we must be able to communicate with them, to ensure that they understand the messages we send, and equally, to ensure that we understand their response to our message. Thus communication is a process that must be seen from the point of view of both the sender and receiver; it implies much more than the simple transmission of a message from one person to another. Is communication a uniquely human phenomenon? The answer is ‘no’, as animals can communicate: dogs will bark at each other (‘verbal’ communication), will wag their tails (‘non-verbal’ communication), or communicate by smelling each other – a facility available to human beings, but generally not used! A dog can also give feedback to humans by sitting when told to do so, thus confirming that it has understood the verbal command. Dogs can express their mood to people, and can react to non-verbal stimuli, such as a person putting their coat on – a sign that a walk is imminent. There is of course, a debate about whether this really represents an understanding of symbolic communication, or a consequence of conditioning. Whatever the precise nature of the relationship between humans and animals, the key difference in terms of communication is that animals cannot speak – it is this facility of speech (or ‘verbal’ communication) that differentiates humans from animals.
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