Communication via Styrofoam Cup

I have trouble communicating. It’s not that I don’t know how I feel, or to properly articulate my thoughts, but the action of talking to someone is more complex than you’d think. At least, that’s what I’ve always found.

I had been recently been thinking about communication a few days back. I was thinking pretty hard about it, but I then realized something very ironic. I was pondering communication as I sat next to two very good friends, who were only a few feet away from me. You should talk to them! Well, I should have, yes. I hadn’t spoken to them in a fair while, and I don’t get to see old friend that often. But of course, I did not talk to my two very good friends. Instead, I thought about how I was unable to talk to them.

The irony of the situation urged me to quickly find an answer to my inability to have a conversation. I immediately grabbed the closet thing I could write with, and on. This was a pen, and a Styrofoam cup.

The two friends continued their conversation in the near vicinity, and I got to work processing my problem. I was absolutely determined to figure it out, so I took the cup and started to etch a chart onto its soft surface. All other sounds were drowned out, and I thought carefully about how language was conveyed from person to person, and why it would be so hard for me to participate in a seemingly simple act.

Now, I’m no COM 101 textbook, but here’s as far as the Styrofoam could get me. Language can be seen as split up into several different elements. Elements such as:

  • Subconscious

All language is dictated through our personal view on reality, and our previous interactions, even if you don’t know it. Your subconscious moves a lot of how the interaction could go, and is always constant in any use of language. It holds your quirks and preferences, making an accurate portrayal of yourself evident upon the act of communicating. Who you are, or who you think you are, will be portrayed when you get further along in the process of communication.

  • Non-Verbal

Non-verbal communication is also dictated by the subconscious, and is also constant. It’s hard to avoid it. Whether it is a shrug, particular expression, or the movement of an eyebrow, it communicates more than sometimes words can. Many times it can to directed through thought, and you consciously decide on how to portray yourself, but most often it happens without our realization.

  • Thought

Your conscious interactions will begin with thought. There can be careless words, or thoughtless actions, but in some way, shape, or form, your thoughts will precede your words. You will hold a subject in your mind, for example, and develop it as the conversation goes on. As you talk, images and emotions will be relayed to your mind, and then continue to develop as you prepare a response.

  • VerbalCup of Communication

Verbal communication is when the thoughts develop from the brain to the mouth as it moves in complicated ways to form each syllable to relay information. In other words: talking. It is our main way of interaction with one another, and is much more direct than most other forms. If you want to get to know someone, talk to them. Why? Because it requires both active thought, subconscious, and who their very person is. What makes a person who they are is required when they communicate. It’s just how we’re made. It’s why we are called to pray to God, and not just think about him. Both are important, but the relationship is far more intimate and personal when we open our mouths and speak.


What’s the rose there for? Well, my mind drifted off, and roses are fun to draw. So there.

This is closely related to subconscious, but there is also the subject of incentive when communicating. What are you looking to get out of interacting with this person? Is it to laugh? To relay information? To have fellowship? To simply get by an awkward situation?

Incentive is important to recognize as you interact, as it can govern what is communicated at that certain point in time. You shouldn’t go off on a strange story telling spree if you’re in the middle of an Algebra class. The communication there requires a different intensive to talk.

You should probably take the Styrofoam charts above with a grain of salt, by the way. These thoughts are scattered, and some probably incorrect (It was about midnight after I had finished my thoughts, after all), but through all of it, I came to this conclusion:

I feel more comfortable in the ‘thinking’ stage, so that’s where I’ll often stay.

Relaying information feels like a certain kind of ‘strange’ for me, and I don’t always feel like I can appropriately express what I am thinking. My thoughts get ahead of me, go in different directions, and are about a hundred times more confident that my common amount of speech. Who I am (through subconscious and incentive) just doesn’t usually enjoy getting past the thinking process.

This is why I have always enjoyed writing, as I can clearly express what I am thinking on my own terms, and not under the ‘clock’ of a decent conversation’s length.

I talk. I enjoy talking. I am very glad God gave me a mouth to communicate with, but it’s not my strongest attribute. My struggle to verbally communicate is often frustrating, and so when two good friends are nearby, I may often just stay in thought.

Call it introverted, call it timid, call it intellectual. I don’t care what you call it. It is important to realize, however, that everyone excels at different kinds of communication. I know some people who can hold a whole conversation with only non-verbal. I know others who have to talk something out to properly think about it. We are all different, but all require the need to interact for one reason or another.

Is there a lesson here? Well, I think the take away is for you to decide on. I would recommend joining me in my thinking process (unless it makes you uncomfortable, as talking is often for me), and start to examine how people communicate with each other. How do you prefer to communicate? Knowing these things can really help you know yourself better, or just have an appreciation for just how different and special each person is according to God’s grand design.

That being said, however, you must realize that all forms of communication are essential. You can’t get through life without thinking, you can’t get through life without talking, and you can’t get through life without being honest with your subconscious and who you really are.


Psalm 19:14

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
    be acceptable in your sight,
       O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.






  1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this. I too struggle with communication and after reading this I was pleased to find that I’m not alone. Communication is an extraordinary thing and as I enjoy art of all forms and have the privilege of learning sign language, I have found great joy and excitement in both experiencing and creating unique and in general different ways of communicating.



  2. I found it beautiful truth that on the cup you illustrated “interaction and participation” with a rose. Thorns make us want to avoid the rose, don’t they? I recently purchased a special rose gardener’s glove. It’s coverage was completely to the elbow and it was constructed out of leather. Professional rose gardeners know the sting of those thorns and “dress accordingly,” and then fully enjoy their rose garden. An introvert’s glove is the time they take to think and then speak. The many introverts this silly talkative extrovert has had the pleasure to know have blessed me often with their careful handling of that rose. I have learned from them the joy of careful listening and processed thought, quiet contemplation and the gentle art of “drawing someone out.” Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this. It was a good reminder of the reasons I am thankful for my wise rose gardening friends. 🙂



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