The Metaphors Inhaling and Exhaling In the Communication Process!

The article explores the two metaphorical concepts of inhaling and exhaling in the context of communication.

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·5 min read
Category: Life Coaching

From a personal perspective, the metaphor of inhaling and exhaling is a perhaps as fitting a metaphor as could be possibly be chosen in any authentic attempt to explicate interpersonal communication.

However, Steward (2012) is quick to interject a plausible caveat, “No metaphor is perfect, of course, and one problem with this one is that inhaling and exhaling happen sequentially, while perceiving and talking take place simultaneously. In this sense, communication is even more dynamic than my metaphor suggests” (p. 158). Interestingly, the metaphorical representation of inhaling, in describing perception, is postulated as a sequential process as opposed to a dynamic one. In the Stewart, Zediker and Witteborn essay “Inhaling: Perception” the authors note, “First, we select uses to attend to or prioritize, based not only on what’s available but also on past judgments, expectations and a variety of cultural cues, Second, we organize the cues we’ve selected into a whole that makes sense. And finally, we go beyond the cues to infer what they mean” (p. 162).

Not only is the process sequential but it is also integrative (Stewart, 2012).

This clearly outlines the complexity of the interpersonal communication process. With regard to the exhaling process which connotes expression and disclosure, the nuance of self-disclosure bears tremendous significance. According to Stewart (2012), “Self-disclosure is revealing to another how you perceive and are reacting to the present situation and giving any information about yourself and your past that is relevant to an understanding of your perceptions and reactions to the present (p. 211). So how does self-disclosure and interpersonal communication relate to listening and the Christian faith? In essence, through a believer’s “internal thought process” (Burley-Allen, 1995, p. 83), known to the believer as the Holy Spirit.

In summary, a biblical worldview of self-disclosure is very similar to confession, yet there are differences.

Essentially, the dichotomy is sin versus sickness. As it relates to the helping profession, confession in currently being used by some Christian psychologist in psychotherapy, McMinn (1996) in citing psychotherapist Richard Erikson elaborates, “Erickson believes psychotherapists should introduce a moral dimension in counseling by assisting clients in their desire for restoration: a process of confessing wrong, making amends, and taking responsibility for future actions” (p. 169). In sum, using interpersonal communication as a vehicle, self-disclosure coupled with confession has the ability to supernaturally bring restoration.


Burley-Allen, M. (1995). Listening: The forgotten skill. (2nd ed.). New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

McMinn, M. R. (1996). Psychology, theology and spirituality in Christian counseling. Carol Stream: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

Stewart, J. (2012). Bridges not walls: A book about interpersonal communication. (11th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.