Communication is the process of exchanging of facts, ideas and opinions and a means that individuals or organizations use for sharing meaning and understanding with one another. In other words, it is the transmission and interaction of facts, ideas, opinions, feelings or attitudes. Communication is an interdisciplinary concept as theoretically it is approached from various disciplines such as mathematics, accounting, psychology, ecology, linguistics, systems analysis, etymology, cybernetics, auditing etc. Communication enables us to do important things: to grow, to learn, to be aware of ourselves and to adjust to our environment.
Communication is a process, which involves organizing, selecting and transmitting
symbols in an appropriate way to ensure the listener perceives and recreates in his own
mind the intended meaning of the communicator. Communication involves the initiation of
meaning in the listener, the transmission of information and thousands of probable stimuli.
Human beings have a compulsive urge to communicate with each other. Mutual
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understanding is not only based on communication but also is the core of human relations.
There can be no mutual understanding without communication; mutual understanding is the
core of human relations. Communication is like birth, death, breath and wanting to be loved apart of life itself. Man is a communicating animal; he alone has the power to express in
words. Sight, sound, touch, smell and taste are the modes of exchange of messages. The
story of man's progress is the story of his progress in communication skills. The degree to
which a civilization or culture progresses is reflected in the state of its communication
There are many communication models which serve a variety of purposes. They range from single event analyses which can be used to instruct beÂ ginners, to complex models which are usually understood only by specialists in the field of communication. I have chosen the SENDERÂ MESSAGE-CHANNEL-RECEIVER(S.M.C.R.). The SMCR model is useful for examining a single communicative event; that is, it can isolate one event out of the ongoing communication process and illustrate the actions which take place.
The sender (or source) in the S.M.C.R. model is the transmitter of the message. There are five factors which influence the sender in any communication he transmits:
1. Communications skills
4. Position in the social system
These five factors also influence the receiver and will only be summarized here.
There are five verbal communication skills which determine our ability to transmit and receive messages. Two are sending skills: speaking and writing. Two are receiving skills: listening and reading. The fifth is important to both sending and receiving: thought or reasoning. The extent of the development of these skills helps determine our ability to communicate verbally. The effectiveness of our communication is also determined by our ability with nonverbal communications skills. A stern look of disapproval from the group leader readily communicates to the group member receiving the look that something he said or did was not well taken.
Attitudes, the second factor influencing the sender and receiver, are hard to define. For the purpose I will say that an attitude is a generalized tendency to feel one way or another about something. For instance, you may have a favorable or an unfavorable attitude toward voluntary groups working to solve community problems. If your attitude on this matter is favorable, you may, however feel that certain problems could be better handled by the city council.
Knowledge level has a bearing on our ability to communicate effectively about a subject. A businessman might feel ill at ease trying to talk with a farmer about hogs, cattle, corn, or beans. The farmer would probably not feel qualified to talk about city slums, urban traffic problems, or city government. They may both feel quite comfortable discussing politics, however. The position of the sender and the receiver in their respective social systems also affects the nature of the communicative act. Each one of us occupies a position in one or more social systems, such as our family, work groups, church, community, or the organizations to which we belong. We perceive those with whom we communicate as occupying a similar, higher, or lower position in their respective social systems. (This ties in with the previous sections on attitudes toward the receiver or sender.)
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Our culture is the fifth influence determining our communication effectiveness. Communication is more effective between persons with similar cultural backgrounds. Culture is relatively independent of social position in many cases. For instance, a voluntary association leader in Iowa could probably communicate better with the people in his own group, because of their similar cultural background, than he could with a leader in the same organization in the East.
In the S.M.C.R. Model, the message is what the sender attempts to transmit to his specified receivers. Every message has at least two major aspects: content and treatment.
The content of the message includes the assertions, arguments, appeals, and themes which the sender transmits to the receivers. For instance, community leaders may wish to send a message to community organizations appealing for financial support for a new swimming pool. The content of the message may include the results of a survey showing the need for a new swimming pool, the proposed plan for the new pool, the costs involved, and the appeal for financial support. The treatment of the message is the arrangement or ordering of the content by the sender. In the above example, the community leaders can arrange the content in many ways. The receiver is likely to be more receptive to the message, however,
if the sender talks about the survey illustrating the needs prior to talking about the costs and making the appeal for financial support. The selection of content and the treatment of the message depend upon our communication skills, attitudes, knowledge level, our position in social systems, and our culture. The selection of content and the treatment of the message we use also depends upon our audience and their communication skills, knowledge, attitudes, social position, and culture.
Social scientists recognize two types of channels:
(I) sensory channels based on the five senses of sight, sound, touch, smell, and taste, and (2) institutionalized means such as face-to-face conversation, printed materials, and the electronic media. We use the institutionalized means to transmit most of our messages. Each institutionalized medium requires one or more of the sensory channels to carry the message from the sender to the receiver. For instance, when we use face-to-face conversation (an institutionalized medium) we make use of sight (gestures, expressions), sound (voice, other noises), and possibly touch, smell, or taste. Social scientists have generally found that the receiver's attention is more likely to be gained if the sender uses a combination of institutionalized means using two or more sensory channels. Suppose, for example, someone tells your group that the quality of education in your community is not as good as the public is led to believe. If your group can discuss the problems face-to-face with school administrators during visits to the school (sight and sound) as well as hear about them through institutionalized means such as television and newspapers, they are more likely to pay attention to the message. When applying the multi-channel concept to real situations, you need to consider the three basic institutionalized means and a minimum of two of the sensory channels, specifically sight and sound. Face-to-face conversation has the greatest potential for getting the receiver's attention. It should be the primary institutionalized means used by leaders in sending messages to their group members. However, leaders should supplement face-to face conversation with other institutionalized means and sensory channels in their continuing effort to gain the attention of their group members.
The receiver in the S.M.C.R. model must attend to, interpret, and respond to the transmitted message. The goal of communication is reached when the receiver accepts the sender's message. Attention and comprehension are the means the receiver uses to attain the goal of acceptance of the message.
Attention is the process by which the receiver tunes in on a message and listens to it, watches it, or reads it. The sender must consider his receiver and treat the message in such a way that the receiver's attention is more easily gained and retained.
Comprehension implies understanding of the message by the receiver. Here again, the sender must consider his intended receiver and use message content and treatment that will enable the receiver to understand the message. Once the receiver has attended to the message and comprehended or understood the content, his next task is to accept the message on at least one of three levels: the cognitive, that is, the receiver accepts the message content as true; the affective. the receiver believes that the message is not only true but good; overt action, where the receiver believes the message is true, believes it is good, takes the appropriate action.
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The sender can do much in deciding on his content and treatment of the message to gain the receiver's attention and comprehension. However, he has little control over the receiver's acceptance of the message. One consideration required at this point is to note that receivers are more inclined to accept message contents which agree with their
previous attitudes. The sender has a less difficult task if his message agrees with the receiver's attitudes. If the receiver disagrees with the sender's message, acceptance is less likely.
Feedback is the sender's way of determining the effectiveness of his message. During feedback the direction of the communication process is reversed. When providing feedback, the original receiver goes through the same process as did the original sender and the same factors influence him as they did the sender.
The receiver may use the same channel for feedback as the sender used for the original message; this is usually the case in face-to-face conversation. Or the receiver may take a different channel, as might be the case when you as a leader transmit a message to your group requesting action on a matter and the group acts or does not act in the way you asked. The group's actions have then become the feedback. Another example might be the increased sales of a product due to radio and television advertising. The purchase of the product by the public provides feedback to the manufacturer on the effectiveness of the communicated message.
In face-to-face conversation feedback is more easily perceived. The sender can tell if the receivers are paying attention when he speaks to them. If a receiver falls asleep or looks at other things in the surrounding environment, the sender realizes that he does not have the receiver's attention.
If the sender sees furrowed brows or questioning facial expressions in his receivers, he knows that they did not comprehend his message. However, the overt action taken by the receiver is the feedback that the sender uses to determine the amount of influence he has had with the receiver.
Feedback measures influence. We know that democratic leadership involves influencing others. When a group has been successful in raising money for a community project, they can rightfully feel that they were influential. If the group had failed in their effort to raise the money, one of the reasons could be that they were not influential in the community. If your group takes the action you want them to take, you have been influential; if it does not, then you were not influential.
Feedback provides a method of eliminating miscommunication. It is most effective in face-to face conversation where feedback is instantaneous. If a group leader asks one of the members for some ideas on projects for the next year and the member suggests having travel films, the leader knows immediately that miscommunication has occurred. The group member suggested program ideas and not project ideas. The feedback would be effective if the leader were to immediately clarify the difference between programs and projects. Had the situation not been face-to-face, the group member might still be thinking of travel films for next year's project.