Breaking Down Communication

Communication is commonly defined as “the exchange of thoughts, ideas, feelings, information, opinions, and knowledge.”

W H Newman and C F Summer Jrn, offer another clear definition: “communication is an exchange of facts, ideas, opinions, or emotions by two or more persons.”

Peter Little also defines communication as “the process by which information is transmitted between individuals and/or organizations so that an understanding response results.”

The word communication comes from the Latin word communis which means common. Therefore, when you attempt to communicate, you are trying to establish “commonness” with another individual or with a group. In so doing you are basically trying to share.

Why Communication Is Important

Communication is a fundamental requisite of life. Some reasons why communication is indispensable are:

  1. Provides interchange of information
    Communication is a two-way process. Thus, it aims at exchanging information between two or more people. It may be at an individual or an organizational level.
  2. It is a continuous process
    The process of communication is dynamic—constantly changing. The people with whom we communicate, its content and nature, and the situation in which communication is held are subject to constant changes.
  3. It paves way for mutual understanding
    The main purpose of communication is to bring about mutual understanding. The receiver should receive and understand the message as intended by the sender.
  4. It results in response or reaction
    Communication always results in some response or reaction. A message becomes communication only when the receiver understands or acknowledges it, and also responds or reacts to it.
  5. It is a social activity
    Communication is concerned with the effort of people who get in touch with one another and make themselves understood to others. The process by which people attempt to share meaning and relate to one another is, thus, a social activity.

Types of Communication

There are two main types of communication. They include verbal communicationOpens in new window, and nonverbal communicationOpens in new window.

1.1  Verbal Communication is using various words combinations to convey information. This involves the content and the organization of speech. It includes oral and written communication.

  1. Oral Communication is concerned with the use of spoken word as a medium for the exchange of information. It consists in the use of speech. Some of the examples of Oral Communication includes: Face to face communication, Telephonic communication, Public Address System (Speech), Grapevine communicationOpens in new window (Informal rumor mill), Audio & Visual Media (e.g., Radio & TV), Lectures, Conferences, Meetings and Cultural affairs.
  2. Written Communication is a form of communication by means of written symbols either in printed or handwritten format. Some of the examples of Written Communication includes: Orders, Instructions, Letters, Memorandums, Reports, Policy manuals, Information Bulletin, Complaint System, Suggestion System, etc.

1.2.  Nonverbal Communication—the second type of communication—in its broader sense, includes all the other forms of communication which do not use written or spoken words. They include the following:

  1. Kinesics — a form of nonverbal communication which consists in the use of body movement and body language including gesture, posture, facial expression, etc.
  2. Paralanguage — a type of nonverbal communication that is concerned with the sound of the voice and the range of meanings that people convey through their voices rather than the words they use.
  3. Proxemics — a type of nonverbal communication that is concerned with the concept of space element in communication. It explains four zones of spaces namely intimate personal, social and public. This concept differs with different culture as the permissible space vary in different countries.
  4. Chronemics — is time aspects of communication that is concerned with the use of time. For instance, should your doorbell ring at 3a.m, your first thought is probably that something has gone wrong. Time influences the way we interpret messages and forms of behavior.
  5. Haptics — is the aspect of communication that examines messages that are conveyed through the use of touch.

The Communication Process

Communication is a cyclical process which begins when the sender encodesOpens in new window the idea by selecting wordsOpens in new window, symbols, or gesturesOpens in new window with which to compose a message. The messageOpens in new window is the outcome of the encoding, which takes the form of verbal (oral or written form) and nonverbal symbols.

What's this?

The message is sent through a medium known as channelOpens in new window, which is the vehicle with which the communication is transmitted. The medium can be a face-to-face conversation, telephone call, e-mail, a written report, or text via cell phone. The receiver decodesOpens in new window the received message into meaningful information and transmits feedbackOpens in new window to the sender.

Feedback occurs when the receiver responds to the sender’s message by returning the message to the sender. Feedback allows the sender to determine whether the message has been received and understood.

More often than not, communication—smooth transmission or comprehension of a message—may be interfered by noise. NoiseOpens in new window is anything that distorts the message. Different perceptions of the message, language barriers, interruptions, emotions, and attitudes are examples of noise.

In summary, the main components of the communication processOpens in new window include the senderOpens in new window, messageOpens in new window, channel (medium of transmission)Opens in new window, receiverOpens in new window, and feedbackOpens in new window.

The components in the communication process determine the quality of communication. A problem commonly known as barrierOpens in new window, in any one of the components can reduce communication effectiveness (Keyton, 2011). There are numerous barriers that may negatively influence communication: physical barriersOpens in new window, physiological barriersOpens in new window, psychological barriersOpens in new window, semantic barriersOpens in new window, organizational barriersOpens in new window, to name but a few.