This essay will discuss the communication process and the elements it consists of. I will then critically applying these theories to my own case study, that will be discussed in more detail at a later stage, and relate it back to the various elements of the communication process.
The Communication Process
The word ‘communication’ originated from the Latin verb communicare. The meaning of this word’s translation (which is “to share” or “to make common”) provides the first half of the meaning of the English word ‘communication’. The second half is related to information and meaning. (Coates, G.T. 2009. Notes on Communication: A few thoughts about the way we interact with the people we meet. Definitions of Communication. Free e-book from www.wanterfall.com. 13) So, ultimately, communication simply means to share or make one’s meanings or information in one’s possession common? Unfortunately it isn’t that easy. Almost every author of a publication regarding the science of communication assigns a different definition to the concept of communication. In the following definitions it’s quite clear that information is more often incorporated into these definitions than meaning. It’s also clear that an interaction that seems to be simple is actually quite complex when investigated. A few definitions include:
“Communication is the sharing, giving and receiving of information
Communication is the transfer of information from one or more people to one or more people” (Coates, G.T. 2009. Notes on Communication: A few thoughts about the way we interact with the people we meet. Definitions of Communication. Free e-book from www.wanterfall.com. 13)
“Communication is the symbolic process of sharing meanings” (Galvin, K.M. Wilkinson, C.A. 2006. The Communication Process: Impersonal and Interpersonal. The Communication Process. Roxbury Publishing. 5)
“Communicationâ€¦(is) the transmission of a message from a sender to a receiver in an understandable manner” (Sanchez, N. Communication Process.
And according to Dr Appalayya Meesala for the transfer of the information, a certain vehicle (medium) is assigned, which loads itself with the message and passes it on to the intended receiver(s). The way the mediums transport the information in such a way that the receiver understands it as it’s intended to, is the communication process (Meesala, Dr A. Understanding the Communication Process – The Key to Organisational Success.
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Meaning’s greatest limitation is that even though it is present in one’s mind at all times, it is never fully. The meaning received by the by the individual on the receiving end of the communication is hardly ever the same as the meaning intended by the sender. This is because of their uniqueness regarding their individuality, sensory organs and cognitive functions. Various factors can influence the accurate transfer of the intended meaning from the sender to the receiver. These include: Word or phrase usage, the register of language, the structure of sentences, the individual characteristics of each communicator, the non-verbal messages sent, the pre-existing knowledge each communicator possesses of the other, the relationship between the communicators, method used to deliver the message, the audience and the surrounding events or interference. These influential factors are also referred to as the context in which the message is transferred.
It is thus easy to conclude that the accurate transferral of one’s meaning to a receiver(s) is a science as well as an art. (Coates, G.T. 2009. Notes on Communication: A few thoughts about the way we interact with the people we meet. Definitions of Communication. Free e-book from www.wanterfall.com. 14-16)
Even more, although the use of verbal and non-verbal codes allow us to transmit thoughts and emotions, the mediums used in a communicative interaction should be mutually understood by both communicating parties for meanings to be more accurately shared. “Common meanings make it possible to communicate”. And communication mishaps occur due to missed meanings (Galvin, K.M. Wilkinson, C.A. 2006. The Communication Process: Impersonal and Interpersonal. The Communication Process. Roxbury Publishing. 7).
Sending and receiving Messages
One would usually use the word ‘channels’ to describe how messages are sent and received but so many experts assigned completely different meanings to this concept. Thus I will use Dr Gordon Coates’s choice of words i.e. “Instead, I will simply say that messages passed between two people need a way to get out of one person and a way to get in to another person. Therefore, I will talk about “output” and “input”” (Coates, G.T. 2009. Notes on Communication: A few thoughts about the way we interact with the people we meet. Definitions of Communication. Free e-book from www.wanterfall.com. 18). By output I will refer to information going out from sender to receiver and, thus, input will refer to that information being received by the receiving party. The input system is sometimes wrongly confused to be a passive process and the output process is an active process. Regarding the human brain, taking in information is indeed an active process as well.
Inputs are achieved by means of sensations and outputs by means of actions. With that said, when referring to sensations I mean signals received by one’s sensory organs, then transferred to one’s brains via nerve fibres and then processed. Organs that are particularly involved in this process are the eyes, ears and tactile sensory systems (their importance follow in that very order too.)
(Coates, G.T. 2009. Notes on Communication: A few thoughts about the way we interact with the people we meet. Definitions of Communication. Free e-book from www.wanterfall.com. 18-19) Various people seem to use one of these three organs more effectively than the others. Although a preference towards using one doesn’t exclude using the other, it does reduce the effectiveness to which the others are used. And when two interacting communicators don’t share a mutual preference towards a certain input, communication mishaps may occur when it comes to understanding meaning.
Outputs are achieved by means of specific actions like talking, writing or physical gestures. They are also named after the input used to receive them i.e. visual, auditory and tactile. For example, when a gesture is made, a visual output is employed. Other than inputs, the actions used to achieve outputs are performed by body parts and NOT by the sensory organs. Thus inputs and outputs use different parts of the body. (Coates, G.T. 2009. Notes on Communication: A few thoughts about the way we interact with the people we meet. Definitions of Communication. Free e-book from www.wanterfall.com. 22)
Verbal and Non-Verbal Communication
Verbal communication refers to written as well as spoken words used to communicate as it means using a language to share information. (Coates, G.T. 2009. Notes on Communication: A few thoughts about the way we interact with the people we meet. Definitions of Communication. Free e-book from www.wanterfall.com. 39)
Non-Verbal communication gets most of the attention in most publications regarding communication science. Non-verbal communication refers to any communication that is achieved without solely relying on the use of words or symbols to transfer information. This type of communication may even provide more information than the spoken words used during interactions and provide all this additional information simultaneous to the spoken words. (Coates, G.T. 2009. Notes on Communication: A few thoughts about the way we interact with the people we meet. Definitions of Communication. Free e-book from www.wanterfall.com. 48) Aspects of non-verbal communication include: First Impressions, Distance, Orientation, Posture, Movements, Gestures, Facial expressions, Eye contact, Sound effects, Direct contact, Consent issues and Personal qualities.
Components of the communication Process
To effectively explain the components, or elements, of the communication process I will apply them to a case study, thus a realistic experience. The interaction I have chosen is a conversation with a friend via the widely popular social network called MXit. I have chosen this case study because I think it represents each component in the communication process quite clearly and accurately.
The elements I will discuss on the basis of this case study are: Communicators (sender and receiver), Message, Noise, Feedback and the Setting/Context. These elements are not mutually exclusive but they are indeed considerably interlaced/interdependent.
During the communication process the sender and receiver (the communicators) switch in the roles they play, but everything else stays the same. Thus the direction of information changes but the process itself stays unchanged.
The sender is also known as the source or the initiator of the communication process. (Nordquist, R. Communication Process. http://grammar.about.com/od/c/g/Communication-Process.htm?p=1. 2011. 1) He is faced with the first step which involves the encoding or translating of a cognitive idea or information onto understandable words and using the appropriate medium to transfer this message in such a way that the receiver will understand it. It is of immense importance that the sender uses mediums that are mutually familiar between him and the receiver. A good thing to keep in mind is the saying “say what you mean – and mean what you say”. In my case study I was the sender who initiated the conversation by greeting my friend and thus sending the first message using a mutually understood language.
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The receiver is the other person involved in this interaction who decodes the message sent by the sender, thus my friend on the other end of the waves transferring our messages from and to each other. The receiver must be sufficiently accessible to receive the message “” (Coates, G.T. 2009. Notes on Communication: A few thoughts about the way we interact with the people we meet. Definitions of Communication. Free e-book from www.wanterfall.com. 152). In the case of my MXit conversation, for a fluent conversation to take place my friend must be in an area with sufficient signal. This communicator must also possess and employ both sensory capacity (good eye-sight to be able to read my messages coming through and that are displayed on his cell phone’s screen) and cognitive capacity (be bright and mentally clear in order to understand my sent messages and intended meanings). All the receiver’s interpretations of the sender’s message are influenced by his experiences, attitudes, knowledge, skills, perceptions and culture. The same aspects influence the sender’s encoding process ” (Sanchez, N. Communication Process. http://web.njit.edu/~lipuma/352comproc/comproc.htm. 2000. 2)
The message is the encoded thoughts of the sender taking the form of the chosen code. It is the essential content of information to be passed in communication (Meesala, Dr A. Understanding the Communication Process – The Key to Organisational Success. http://ezinearticles.com/?Understanding-the-Communication-Process—The-Key-to-Organisational-Success&id=876670. 2007. 2).
It can be written, verbal or non-verbal, pictures, diagrams or numbers and should be in the language mutually understood my both sender and receiver. Messages usually have hidden or clear meanings that the receiver has to unravel in order to understand the message the sender is trying to convey. Seeing as textual social networks mainly rely on eye-sight as means of input and output only, non-verbal messages accompanying the verbal messages can’t be observed and so misunderstandings in the effect of the messages can occur. Thus my friend and I have to carefully choose the wording of our messages to avoid uncomfortable mishaps.
Noise refers to any distraction or interference in the environment in which the communication is taking place and can be physical or psychological (Johns, T. 1995. Business Basics: Organisational behaviours. The Communication Process. BPP Publishing Limited. 9) Noise can also refer to a problem in the chosen medium or encoding or decoding of the message in some stage of the process that can lead to misunderstandings (Meesala, Dr A. Understanding the Communication Process – The Key to Organisational Success. http://ezinearticles.com/?Understanding-the-Communication-Process—The-Key-to-Organisational-Success&id=876670. 2007. 2) In my case study the MXit service was unstable and either me or my friend’s phone will occasionally disconnect from the service temporarily and so messages will get lost and wont be received by the intended receiver. This caused frustration as the receiver will keep waiting ignorant to the fact that the message got lost in a bad connection and will start thinking the sender is ignoring him. This just creates an uncomfortable atmosphere that can influence the fluid continuation of the conversation.
Feedback is the final step in the communication process. This is when the role of the sender and receiver swaps and it’s the receiver’s turn to send a message which will be a response to the sender’s message he decoded. This is of immense importance as this is an evaluation of the sender’s communication abilities. The efficiency of the sender’s ability to communicate will be determined by the receiver’s reaction which will determine whether the sender’s meaning was effectively transferred or not. In my case study feedback will be any response to any message sent between my friend and I. These responses determined whether we have the same meaning assigned to some of the slang and abbreviations we used and enable us to apply changes in our encoding where needed.
Context in the communication process refers to the idea that there is a suitable time and place for every message that needs to be conveyed. There is physical context (the environments one chooses to communicate in), social context (the occasion during which one chooses to communicate in) and cultural context that involves an even bigger set of rules in certain societies which will restrict the way you communicate (Dimbleby, R. Burton, G. 1998. More Than Words: An Introduction to Communication, 3rd ed. Routledge) In my MXit conversation the context refers to the context of each individual communicator. For instance, it would be rude to chat on MXt while one is sitting at the dinner table or having a personal conversation with another person. To converse in a MXit conversation one has to be at ease and alone in the comfort of one’s privacy and not be interacting with other people.
Thus I just proved Dr Gordon Coates’s statement correct. Through investigating and discussing the components and elements of the communication process in more depth and then applying the theory to reality, it is clear that although “it seemsâ€¦ that the process by which communication occurs is very simple in concept, (it) can become extremely complex if it is inspected closely.”
Johns, Dr Ted. 1995. Business Basics: Organisational behaviours. BPP Publishing Limited
Meesala, Dr Appalayya. Understanding the Communication Process – The Key to Organisational Success. http://ezinearticles.com/?Understanding-the-Communication-Process—The-Key-to-Organisational-Success&id=876670. 2007
Sanchez, Nick. Communication Process. http://web.njit.edu/~lipuma/352comproc/comproc.htm. 2000
Galvin, Kathleen M. Wilkinson, Charles A. 2006. The Communication Process: Impersonal and Interpersonal. Roxbury Publishing
Coates, Gordon T. 2009. Notes on Communication: A few thoughts about the way we interact with the people we meet. Free e-book from www.wanterfall.com
Dimbleby, Richard. Burton, G. 1998. More Than Words: An Introduction to Communication, 3rd ed. Routledge
Nordquist, Richard. Communication Process. http://grammar.about.com/od/c/g/Communication-Process.htm?p=1. 2011
Steinberg, Sheila. 2007. An Introduction to Communication studies. 1st ed. Juta & Co.
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