- Define communication and describe communication as a process.
- Identify and describe the eight essential components of communication.
- Identify and describe two communication models.
Many theories have been proposed to describe, predict, and understand the behaviors and phenomena that make up communication. When it comes to communication in business, we are often less concerned with theory than with ensuring that our communication brings the desired results. But to get results, it can be valuable to understand what communication is and how it works.
The root of the word "communication" in Latin isSplit, meaning "to share" or "to make together" (Weekley, 1967).Communicationis defined as the process of understanding and sharing meaning (Pearson & Nelson, 2000).
Central to our study of communication is the relationship, which involves the interaction between participants. This definition serves us well as it emphasizes the process, which we will examine in depth throughout this text, to effectively understand and share another's point of view.
The first keyword in this definition isprocess. A process is a dynamic activity that is difficult to describe because it is changing (Pearson & Nelson, 2000). Imagine yourself thinking alone in your kitchen. Someone you know (e.g. your mother) enters the kitchen and you talk briefly. What has changed? Now imagine that your mother is joined by someone else, someone you have never met before, and this stranger listens to you intently, as if you are giving a speech. What has changed? Your perspective might change and you might pay more attention to your words. The feedback or response from your mom and the stranger (who are essentially your audience) may cause you to reconsider what you're saying. When we interact, all of these factors—and many more—affect the communication process.
The second keyword isunderstanding: “To understand is to perceive, to interpret, and to relate our perception and interpretation to what we already know.” (McLean, 2003) What image comes to mind when a friend tells you a story about falling off a bicycle? Now your friend is pointing out the window and you see a motorcycle lying on the ground. Understanding the words and the concepts or objects they refer to is an important part of the communication process.
Next comes the wordshare. Sharing means doing something together with one or more people. You can share a common activity, like participating in the creation of a report; or you can benefit from a resource together, like sharing a pizza with several colleagues. In communication, sharing occurs when you convey thoughts, feelings, ideas, or insights to others. You can also share with yourself (a process called intrapersonal communication) as you bring ideas to mind, reflect on how you feel about something, or find the solution to a problem and get a classic "Aha!" to have. Moment when something becomes clear.
Finally,meaningwe share through communication. The word "bike" stands for both a bicycle and a short name for a motorcycle. By considering the context in which the word is used and asking questions, we can discover the common meaning of the word and understand the message.
Eight essential components of communication
To better understand the communication process, we can break it down into a series of eight essential components:
Each of these eight components fulfills an integral function in the overall process. Let's explore them one by one.
ThatThoseintroduces himself, creates and sends the message. In a public speaking situation, the source is the person making the speech. He or she conveys the message by sharing new information with the audience. The speaker also conveys a message through their tone of voice, body language, and choice of clothing. The speaker begins by first determining the message—what to say and how to say it. The second step is to encode the message, choosing just the right order or perfect words to convey the intended meaning. The third step is to present or broadcast the information to the recipient or audience. Finally, by observing the audience's reaction, the source recognizes how well they received the message and responds with clarifications or supporting information.
"Thatmessageis the appeal or meaning created by the source for the recipient or audience.” (McLean, 2005) When you plan to give a speech or write a report, your message shines through only from the words you choose to exist that convey your meaning. But this is just the beginning. The words are brought together with grammar and organization. You can save your main point for last. The message also consists of the way you say it - in a speech with your tone of voice, your body language and your looks - and in a report with your writing style, your punctuation and the headings and formatting you choose. Additionally, part of the message can be the environment or context in which you present it and noise that can make your message difficult to hear or see.
For example, imagine you are addressing a large audience of sales reps and you know there is a World Series game tonight. Your audience might have a hard time settling down, but you might decide to start with, "I understand there's an important game tonight." By verbally expressing something that most of the people in your audience are familiar with and interested in, this is a great way to capture and focus their attention.
"ThatChannelis the manner in which a message or messages are transmitted between source and recipient.” (McLean, 2005) Think of your television, for example. How many channels do you have on your TV? Each channel, even in a digital world, takes up some space in the cable or signal that brings each channel's message to your home. Television combines an audio signal that you hear with a visual signal that you see. Together they convey the message to the recipient or audience. Turn off the volume on your TV. Can you still understand what is happening? This is often possible because body language conveys part of the message of the show. Now turn up the volume, but turn around so you can't see the TV. You can still hear the dialogue and follow the plot.
Similarly, when you speak or write, you use a channel to convey your message. Spoken channels include face-to-face conversations, speeches, phone calls and voicemail messages, radio, public address systems, and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). Written channels include letters, memoranda, purchase orders, invoices, newspaper and magazine articles, blogs, emails, text messages, tweets, and so on.
"Thatrecipientreceives the message from the source, analyzes and interprets the message in a way that is both intended and unintended by the source.” (McLean, 2005) To better understand this component, imagine a receiver on a soccer team. The quarterback throws the football (message) to a receiver who must see and interpret where he is catching the ball. The quarterback may intend for the recipient to "pick up" their message in one way, but the recipient may see things differently and miss the football (intended meaning) altogether.
As a recipient, you hear, see, touch, smell, and/or taste to receive a message. Your audience "guesses" you, as you might do long before you take the stage or open your mouth. Your audience's nonverbal responses can serve as clues as to how to adjust your opening. By putting yourself in their place, you anticipate what you would be looking for if you were them. Just as a quarterback plans where the receiver will be in order to place the ball correctly, you too can discern the interaction between source and receiver in a business communications context. All of this happens at the same time and illustrates why and how communication is constantly changing.
If you respond to the source, intentionally or unintentionally, provide feedback.Feedbackconsists of messages that the recipient sends back to the source. Verbal or non-verbal, all of these feedback signals allow the source to see how well, how accurate (or how poorly and inaccurately) the message was received. Feedback also provides an opportunity for the recipient or audience to ask for clarification, agree or disagree, or suggest that the source could make the message more interesting. As feedback increases, so does communication accuracy (Leavitt & Mueller, 1951).
Let's say you're a sales manager and you're on a conference call with four sales reps. As a source, you want to tell the sales reps to use the fact that it's World Series season to close the sale of baseball-related sports gear. You say your message, but you hear no response from your audience. You might assume that means they understood you and agreed with you, but later in the month you might be disappointed to find that very few sales were made. If you followed your message with a request for feedback (“Does that make sense? Do any of you have questions?”), you may have an opportunity to refine your message and find out if any of the sales reps believed your suggestion would don't work for their customers.
"Thatvicinityis the physical and psychological atmosphere in which you send and receive messages.” (McLean, 2005) The environment can include the tables, chairs, lighting and sound equipment located in the room. The room itself is an example of the surroundings. The environment can also include factors such as formal attire, which can indicate whether a discussion is open and caring or more professional and formal. People are more likely to have an intimate conversation when they are physically close and less likely when they can only see each other from across the room. If so, they may be texting each other, which is itself an intimate form of communication. The choice of text is influenced by the environment. As a speaker, your environment will influence and play a role in your speech. It's always a good idea to check where you'll be speaking before the day of the actual presentation.
"Thatcontextof the communication interaction involves the setting, the scene, and the expectations of the people involved.” (McLean, 2005) A professional communication context may include business suits (environmental cues) that directly or indirectly influence participants' expectations of language and behavior.
A presentation or discussion does not take place as an isolated event. When you came to class, you came from somewhere. So is the person sitting next to you, as is the instructor. The degree to which the setting is formal or informal depends on the participants' contextual expectations of the communication. The person sitting next to you may be used to informal communication with faculty, but that particular faculty may be used to verbal and non-verbal displays of respect in the academic setting. You may also be used to formal interactions with teachers and find your classmate asking "Hey teacher, do we have homework today?". as rude and inconsiderate when they take it as normal. The instructor's non-verbal response certainly gives you an indication of how he perceives the interaction, both the choice of words and the way they were said.
Context is about what people expect from each other, and we often create those expectations from environmental cues. Traditional gatherings like weddings or quinceañeras are often formal events. There is a time for quiet social greetings, a time of silence as the bride walks down the aisle, or the father can have the first dance with his daughter as she is being transformed from girl to woman in the eyes of her community. In both celebrations, there can come a time for wild partying and dancing. You may be asked to make a toast, and the context of the wedding or quinceañera will affect your presentation, timing, and effectiveness.
Context is about what people expect of each other.
Toshihiro Gamo –marriage matrix– CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.
Who speaks first at a business meeting? This probably has something to do with the position and role each person has outside of the meeting. Context plays a very important role in communication, especially between cultures.
Interference, also called noise, can come from any source. "interferenceis anything that blocks or changes the intended meaning of the message by the source.” (McLean, 2005) For example, if you were driving to work or school, you were probably surrounded by noise. Car horns, billboards or perhaps the radio in your car have interrupted your thoughts or your conversation with a passenger.
Mental noise is what happens when your thoughts take your attention while listening to or reading a message. Imagine it is 4:45 p.m. and your boss, who is at a meeting in another city, emails you for last month's sales, an analysis of current sales forecasts, and that month's sales for the last five years. You can open the email, start reading, and think, "Great - no problem - I have these numbers and analysis right here on my computer." away. Then at five o'clock you turn off your computer and go home. The next morning, your boss calls to tell you that he was uncomfortable because you failed to provide sales figures for previous years. What was the problem? Interference: By thinking about how to respond to your boss' message, you prevented yourself from reading carefully enough to understand the entire message.
Interference can also come from other sources. Perhaps you are hungry and your attention to your current situation is affecting your ability to listen. Maybe the office is hot and stuffy. If you were part of an audience listening to a board address, how might it affect your ability to listen and participate?
Noise disrupts the normal encoding and decoding of the message carried by the channel between source and receiver. Not all noise is bad, but noise disrupts the communication process. For example, your cell phone ringtone may be a welcome sound for you, but it can disrupt the communication process in class and be disruptive to your classmates.
Two communication models
Researchers have observed that in a communication, the source and receiver can send messages simultaneously, and often overlapping. You, as the speaker, often play both roles, as a source and as a receiver. You focus on communicating and receiving your messages to the audience. The audience will respond in the form of feedback that will give you important clues. While there are many communication models, here we focus on two that offer perspectives and lessons for business communicators.
Instead of considering the source sending a message and someone receiving it as two distinct acts, researchers often view communication as onetransaktionalprocess (Figure 1.3 "Transactional communication model"), where actions are often performed simultaneously. The distinction between source and recipient becomes blurred, for example, when the conversation is switched, in which both participants take on both roles at the same time.
Figure 1.3transactional model of communication
Researchers have also explored the idea that we all construct our own interpretations of the message. As the State Department quote at the beginning of this chapter shows, what I said and what you heard may be different. In whichconstructivistmodel (Figure 1.4 "Constructivist communication model"), we focus on negotiated meaning or commonality when attempting to describe communication (Pearce & Cronen, 1980),
Imagine you are visiting Atlanta, Georgia and you go to a restaurant for dinner. When asked if you'd like a "Coke," you can answer "Sure." The waiter can then ask you again, "What kind?" and you can reply, "Coke is fine." The waiter can then ask a third time, "What kind of soft drink would you like?" The misconception in this example is that in Atlanta, home of the Coca-Cola Company, most soft drinks are generically referred to as "cola." When you order a soft drink, you must specify what kind it is, even if you want to order a drink that isn't cola or isn't even made by the Coca-Cola Company. For someone from other regions of the United States, the words "pop," "soda pop," or "soda" may be the familiar term for a soft drink; not necessarily the "Coke" brand. In this example, both you and the waiter understand the word cola, but each has a different meaning. In order to communicate, you both need to recognize what the term means to the other person and create common ground to fully understand the request and provide a response.
Figure 1.4Konstruktivistisches Communication Model
Because we carry within ourselves the multiple meanings of words, gestures, and ideas, we can refer to a dictionary, but we still have to negotiate meaning.
key to take away
The communication process involves understanding, sharing and meaning and consists of eight essential elements: source, message, channel, recipient, feedback, environment, context and interference. Communication models include the transactional process, in which actions take place simultaneously, and the constructivist model, which focuses on shared meaning.
- Draw what you think communication looks like. Share your drawing with your classmates.
- Name three environmental stimuli and how they affect your expectations of communication. Please share your results with your classmates.
- How does context affect your communication? Consider the language and culture people grew up with and the role it plays in communication style.
- If you could design the perfect date, what activities, locations, and/or environmental cues would you include to set the mood? Please share your results with your classmates.
- Watch two people having a conversation. Describe their communication. See if you can find all eight components and give an example for each.
- Which assumptions are present in the transactional communication model? Find an example of a communication model in your workplace or classroom and give an example of all eight components.
Cronen, V. & Pearce, W.B. (1982). The coordinated management of meaning: A theory of communication. In F.E. Dance (ed.),theory of human communication(S. 61–89). New York, NY: Harper & Row.
Leavitt, H. & Mueller, R. (1951). Some implications of feedback on communication.human relationships, 4, 401–410.
McLean, S. (2003).The basics of voice communication. Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.
McLean, S. (2005).The basics of interpersonal communication(S. 10). Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.
Pearce, W.B., & Cronen, V. (1980).Communication, Action and Meaning: The Creation of Social Realities. New York, NY: Praeger.
Pearson, J. & Nelson, P. (2000).An introduction to human communication: understanding and sharing(S. 6). Boston, MA: McGraw-Hill.
Weekley, E. (1967).An Etymological Dictionary of Modern English(Vol. 1, p. 338). New York, NY: Dover Publications.
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Simple actions like using a person's name, making eye contact, and actively listening when a person speaks will make the person feel appreciated. On the phone, avoid distractions and stay focused on the conversation. Convey respect through email by taking the time to edit your message.What are the benefits of successful communication? ›
Good communication also improves relationships, both with employees and in your personal life with friends and family members. Listening carefully and offering quality feedback helps people to feel heard and understood. This, in turn, nurtures mutual respect.Who said communication is the key to success? ›
“Communication is one of the most important skills you require for a successful life.”
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Definition of success
the favorable or prosperous termination of attempts or endeavors; the accomplishment of one's goals. the attainment of wealth, position, honors, or the like. a performance or achievement that is marked by success, as by the attainment of honors: The play was an instant success.
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- Listen, listen, and listen. ...
- Who you are talking to matters. ...
- Body language matters. ...
- Check your message before you hit send. ...
- Be brief, yet specific. ...
- Write things down. ...
- Sometimes it's better to pick up the phone. ...
- Think before you speak.
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- Active listening. ...
- Responsiveness. ...
- Understanding different communication styles. ...
- Empathy. ...
- Body language and non-verbal cues. ...
- Writing skills.
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- Verbal Communication. Verbal communication occurs when we engage in speaking with others. ...
- Non-Verbal Communication. What we do while we speak often says more than the actual words. ...
- Written Communication. ...
- Listening. ...
- Visual Communication.
- Target audience(s)
- Intended outcomes.
- Key messages.
- Appropriate medium.
- Preferred messenger(s)