According to Keyton, communication “is the process of transmitting information and common understanding from one person to another.” The definition underscores the fact that unless a common understanding results from the exchange of information, there is no communication. “Understanding” is the essence of communication. This only happens when there is an intention of understanding and being understood by those involved in a communication situation. Interaction with the purpose of sharing involves the exchange of signs and symbols (i.e. words). In a given communicative context, the absence of them also still communicates the absence of the ‘ingredients’ of communication; the intention, the skills or the presence of barriers.
Communication is a matter of effectiveness, which is dependent on the interlocutors’ communication competency. In other words, its effectiveness is dependent on one’s competency in communication. Communication involves intents and efforts from both the sender and the receiver of the message. It is a process that can be fraught with error such as with messages muddled (i.e., mixed up by the sender, or misinterpreted by the recipient). Miscommunication is avoidable. However, if this isn’t detected, it can cause tremendous confusion, waste efforts and miss opportunities. In fact, communication is successful only when both the sender and the receiver reach a common understanding regarding the same information as a result of the communication process.
Elements and Process of Communication
Communication is a process and as such contains many elements to enable it to happen. Here are some major elements of the communication process:
1. Stimulus: This is the originating point. It is the urge that necessitates communication. The stronger the stimulus or the urge, the greater the need to communicate. The greater the need to communicate, the more the need for effectiveness. Effective communication, therefore, results in the form of desired outcome.
2. Encoding/message: The urge to satisfy a need necessitates expression. Without getting into the ages-old debate whether first is the word or the thought, the expression has to take a comprehensible form so as to enable the receiver to decode or interpret it. This is done by using different conventions. The expression can be through signs and symbols. Symbols here denote the verbal mode; or the use of words whereas the signs are non-verbal. Both symbols and signs together make the language we use to communicate. Language, both verbal and non-verbal, is thus employed to encode the message that is intended to be communicated. It is imperative that the encoding be done in a language that conveys, or for that matter, communicates.
3. Channel: Channel is the means through which the message travels or gets transmitted. The channel is the medium such as e-mail, face-to-face or phone conversation, letter, presentation, etc. The sending and feedback channels may not necessarily be the same. The type of communication, viz. formal and informal communication is an important aspect in choosing the most appropriate channel for communicating effectively.
4. Decoding: Decoding of a message is as integral to communication as encoding it. It is the process of giving meaning to the encoded message. It can also be referred to as extracting the embedded meaning or interpreting what was encoded by the sender.
5. Receiver: A message is directed to a receiver being the eventual recipient of the message. Communication is a matter of comprehending the sent message in its true essence and thus requires a certain level of Knowledge, Skills and Abilities (KSA) on the part of the receiver to correctly interpret the message.
Barriers to Communication
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