We often say, “Communication is essential. However, when asked what communication is, few people can answer adequately. It isn’t easy to know exactly what communication is.
If you don’t know who you are, there is no way you can understand how to communicate well. Nevertheless, modern society is obsessed with the idea that communication is essential.
Tomohito Oda’s manga “Komi Can’t Communicate” is a comical depiction of the inherent difficulty and wonder of communication. It is light-hearted work, but I think it touches on an essentially important aspect of human relationships.
|Two meanings of verbal communication
The story is about Tadano Hitohito, who decides to live an average and inconspicuous high school life. It becomes friends with Komi, the most beautiful girl in the school but a “Can’t Communicate” who can’t communicate with others. The story is about how Tadano Hitohito becomes friends with Komi, the most beautiful girl in the whole school but a “Can’t Communicate” girl who can’t talk to others, and helps her achieve her goal of making 100 friends.
Komi is so nervous in front of others that she cannot speak. However, because of her good looks, people around her do not know this. Because of her appearance, she is strangely looked down upon and is treated as the flower of the higher class. Tadano suddenly decides that Komi is a person who is not good at speaking, and through the act of writing on the blackboard, they become friends.
The reason why Komi is called “Can’t Communicate” is because of this inability to speak. This is because human society is supported by communication, mainly language. The sociologist Masayuki Osawa writes that “a social system is a system in which communication is an element,” and that “the majority of human communication, the richest and most diverse part, is linguistic communication” (“Conditions of the (Un)possibility of Communication: On the Twin of Silence,” Contemporary Thought, March 2017). (Contemporary Thought, March 2017, p. 36).
Osawa says that there are two levels of meaning in verbal communication. Osawa says that there are two levels of meaning in oral communication: the meaning of the sentence and the utterance’s meaning. For example, when you say, “It’s a nice day today,” the meaning of the sentence is that the weather is fine, but the person who said it does not want to tell you that it is okay. Perhaps he wants to start a conversation or something like that. This is the meaning of the utterance.
When a speaker says something, they usually have two intentions, as described above. The question is whether the receiver is aware of those two intentions or whether they accept or reject them.
When a girl says to a boy, “I hear the sweets at that restaurant are delicious. When a girl says to a boy, “I hear that sweets are delicious at that restaurant, and I want to go there,” the boy, the receiver, may interpret the meaning of the utterance as “I want to go there with you,” assuming that the meaning of the sentence remains the same. But in fact, it may not. The receiver needs to change his reaction depending on how he interprets the “meaning of the utterance. The receiver has to constantly make analogies and then choose the most appropriate words and actions. Naturally, there are two meanings to the receiver’s response, so now the first speaker has to make an analogy. When the speaker responds, they will analogize it further: ……. Language-communication is such a complex process. Isn’t it amazing to think about it again?
Komi wants to have friends. So she wants to ask them to be her friends, but she can’t. At first, Tadano thought it would be easy for Komi to make 100 friends. At first, Tadano figured it would be easy for Komi to make 100 friends because even if she couldn’t speak, if Tadano said, “Komi wants to be your friend,” everyone would be willing to be her friend.
If linguistic communication had only one meaning, “the meaning of the sentence,” things would have gone smoothly, as Tadano thought. However, the receiver also considers the meaning of the utterance. Why would a wonderful woman like Komi become friends with him? What is her intention? (In fact, Ms. Yamai, who dotes on Komi unilaterally, interpreted it as Tadano getting carried away.) As a result, Tadano has to take various measures since telling her that is not enough for them to become friends. For example, he has to make sure that Nagana, his first friend, goes to school with him.
|It is the receiver who makes the communication happen.
Komi wrote on the blackboard and explained to Tadano that when she approached people, she received reactions such as nervousness, running away, fainting, and getting down on her knees, which made her think that they didn’t like her and she couldn’t talk to them. These feelings piled up, and he began to think, “How am I going to talk to her? What if she rejects me?
Communication is only possible when there is a sender and a receiver. The receiver is even more critical than the sender for communication to take place.
As mentioned earlier in Osawa, Masayuki says that the meaning of a sentence can be easily determined by following the dictionary and grammar. Still, the purpose of an utterance can be interpreted in many ways. Communication is not possible unless the receiver can correctly interpret the meaning of the utterance.
It seems that when Komi tries to talk to them, many recipients make a “grand misunderstanding” and faint or even get down on their knees. When Komi sees this, she thinks it’s her fault. Tadano was the only one who could see that Komi was having trouble with conversation. Tadano says that he could tell “by the way she was reacting,” and because this was the correct interpretation, he was able to start communicating with Komi.
This point of noticing “by the reactions I’ve had” is also important in thinking about communication. I believe that Tadano’s reaction to Komi was not intended to make her realize that she was not good at conversations; it was just Tadano’s interpretation. In other words, even if the sender has no intention, communication can be established if the receiver interprets and accepts the message in some way. In his book “Communication,” Masayuki Osawa writes, “The most important choice for the establishment of communication is the choice on the part of the receiver in response to the communicative intention of the speaker (p. 81). Furthermore, he writes, “Even if the speaker has neither informational nor communicative purposes, if the receiver reads and accepts the communicative intentions of the speaker, communication is objectively established (p. 81).
The key to successful communication is the receiver rather than the sender, and Tadano was an outstanding receiver, which is why he became Komi’s first friend.