What Does Communication Mean[1]

Communication is simply the act of transferring information from one place, person, or group to another. Every communication involves (at least) one sender, a message, and a recipient. This may sound simple, but communication is actually a very complex subject. The transmission of the message from sender to recipient can be affected by many things. These include our emotions, the cultural situation, the communication medium, and even our location. The complexity is why good communication skills are considered so desirable by employers around the world: accurate, effective, and unambiguous communication is actually extremely hard.

Merely communicating isn't enough; there needs to be effective communication which is the result of getting a desired response by sharing accurate information between individuals. In an organizational and management context, effective communication by individuals in a management position is essential to efficiently coordinate, manage, and supervise their teams.

Elements of Communication[2]

In order to better understand the communication process, we can break it down into a series of eight essential components. Each of these eight components serves an integral function in the overall process

  • Source: The source imagines, creates, and sends the message.
    • The source begins by determining the message—what to say and how to say it.
    • The second step involves encoding the message by choosing the right order or the perfect words to convey the intended meaning.
    • The third step is to present or send the information to the receiver or audience. This message can be conveyed through his or her tone of voice, body language, and choice of clothing.
    • Finally, by watching for the audience’s reaction, the source perceives how well they received the message and responds with clarification or supporting information.
  • Message: The message is the meaning produced by the source for the receiver or audience.
    • When you speak to a person, your message may be the words you choose to convey your meaning. But that is just the beginning.
    • The words are brought together with grammar and organization. You may choose to save your most important 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 appearance—and in a report, with your writing style, punctuation, and the headings and formatting you choose.
    • In addition, part of the message may be the environment or context you present it in and the noise that might make your message hard to hear or see. Imagine, for example, that you are presenting in front of your class and know there is a Super Bowl game tonight. Your audience might have a hard time settling down, but you may choose to open with, “I understand there is an important game tonight.” In this way, by expressing verbally something that most people in your audience are aware of and interested in, you might grasp and focus their attention.

Elements of Communication

  • Channel: There are different ways for a message to travel between the source and the receiver, and this is called the channel. For example, think of your television. How many channels do you have on your television? Each channel takes up some space, even in a digital world, in the cable or in the signal that brings the message of each channel to your home. Television combines an audio signal you hear with a visual signal you see. Together they convey the message to the receiver or audience. Turn off the volume on your television. Can you still understand what is happening? You can. Often because the body language conveys part of the show's message. Now turn up the volume but turn around so you cannot see the television. You can still hear the dialogue and follow the storyline. Similarly, when you speak or write, you use a channel to convey your message.
    • Spoken channels include face-to-face conversations, speeches, telephone conversations and voice mail messages, radio, public address systems, and voice over Internet protocol (VoIP).
    • Written channels include letters, memorandums, purchase orders, invoices, newspaper and magazine articles, blogs, e-mails, text messages, tweets, and so forth.
  • Receiver: As a receiver, you listen, see, touch, smell, and/or taste to receive a message and interpret the message from the source intentionally and unintentionally. To better understand this component, think of a receiver on a football team. The quarterback throws the football (message) to a receiver, who must see and interpret where to catch the ball. The quarterback may intend for the receiver to “catch” his message in one way, but the receiver may see things differently and miss the football (the intended meaning) altogether.
  • Feedback: When you respond to the source, intentionally or unintentionally, you are giving feedback. Feedback is composed of messages the receiver sends back to the source. Verbal or nonverbal, all these feedback signals allow the source to see how well, how accurately (or how poorly and inaccurately) the message was received. Feedback also allows the receiver or audience to ask for clarification, to agree or disagree, or to indicate that the source could make the message more interesting. As the amount of feedback increases, the accuracy of communication also increases. For example, suppose you are downstairs, and your children are upstairs. You would like to tell them dinner is ready. You yell upstairs for them to come down and hear no reply. You might assume that this means they understood, are wanting to eat, and will be down shortly, but you also may think they didn't hear you, or they aren't hungry and choose to skip dinner. So you shout louder! If you followed up your first "Dinner is ready" message with a request for feedback ("Say I'll be right down, or I'm not hungry if you heard me"), you might have an opportunity to clarify your message and to find out if they are hungry and coming down for dinner.
  • Environment: The environment is the space where you send and receive messages. If you glance around your room, your environment can include the tables, chairs, lighting, and the computer you use. The room itself is an example of the environment. The environment can also include factors like formal dress, which may indicate whether a discussion is open and caring or more professional and formal. People may be more likely to have an intimate conversation when they are physically close to each other and less likely when they can only see each other from across the room. In that case, they may text each other, itself an intimate form of communication. The choice to text is influenced by the environment.
  • Context: A presentation or discussion does not take place as an isolated event. Context is the circumstances that form the setting for an event, statement, or idea and in terms of which it can be fully understood and assessed. For example, when you came to class, you came from somewhere. So did the person seated next to you, as did the instructor.
    • The degree to which the environment is formal or informal depends on the contextual expectations for communication held by the participants. The person sitting next to you may be used to informal communication with instructors. Still, this particular instructor may be used to verbal and nonverbal displays of respect in the academic environment.
    • You may be used to formal interactions with instructors as well and find your classmate’s question, “Hey Teacher, do we have homework today?” as rude and inconsiderate when they see it as normal. The nonverbal response from the instructor will certainly give you a clue about how they perceive the interaction, both the word choices and how they were said.
    • Context is all about what people expect from each other. In a business meeting, who speaks first? That probably relates to the position and role each person has outside the meeting. Context plays a very important role in communication, particularly across cultures.
  • Interference: Interference, also called noise, can come from any source and has the ability to block or change the intended meaning of the message.
    • For example, if you drove a car to work or school, chances are you were surrounded by noise. Car horns, billboards, or perhaps the radio in your car interrupted your thoughts or your conversation with a passenger.
    • Psychological noise happens when your thoughts occupy your attention while hearing or reading a message. Imagine that you are studying for your first test, and you are nervous about the grade you will receive. As thoughts of doubt creep into your mind, they interfere with your reading of classroom notes and the study guide.
    • Interference can come from other sources, too. Perhaps you are hungry, and your attention to your current situation interferes with your listening ability. Maybe the classroom is hot and stuffy. If you were a member of an audience listening to a guest speaker, how could this impact your ability to listen and participate?
    • Noise interferes with normal encoding and decoding of the message carried by the channel between source and receiver. Not all noise is bad, but noise interferes with the communication process. For example, your cell phone ringtone may be a welcome noise to you, but it may interrupt the communication process in class and bother your classmates.

Types of Communication[3]

Communication is mainly of three types, i.e., Verbal, Non-verbal, and Written communication.

  • Verbal Communication: Verbal or oral communication is defined as the flow of message or information between the sender and audience through different verbal mediums like speech or words, presentation, discussion or conversation, etc. The sender expresses his/her thoughts by speaking words. In verbal communication, there is an important role of body language and voice tone in how communication is perceived. Verbal communication ensures both message transmission and its receipt simultaneously and instant feedback from the receiver. From an organization’s point of view, oral communication happens through discussions, presentations, meetings, etc. Elements like the sender’s tone and pitch of voice, word quality are crucial to verbal communication. For effective verbal communication through presentations or speeches, the speaker or sender of a message should speak loudly and clearly. Also, the content should be conveyed properly. Unclear or unorganized ideas or messages can create misunderstandings or confusion among the audience. The sender has to ensure the required response from the receiver once a verbal message is transmitted.
Example: A very simple example of verbal communication is when two or more people chat with each other using words. Question and answer sessions using words in classrooms or during training in organizations is also a type of verbal communication.
  • Written Communication: The process of transmitting messages or information in the written form of words is known as written communication. The medium of this communication in organizations are memos, reports, letters, circulars, documents, emails, etc. It is considered an effective communication tool for business which is less flexible. This communication type is useful in case of complex and lengthy messages or information that is difficult to explain verbally. Documents that are written are useful for future reference. Effective written communication takes place when it includes the below-mentioned 7 Cs of communication. The feedback in this type of communication is not instant, as it requires time to understand it.
Example: Sales reports can be considered as an illustration of written communication. These reports consist of all necessary information and data related to sales figures, sales analysis, etc., as per business verticals and locations. This can be complex and huge sales reports presented in Excel sheets or any other data software.

  • Non-Verbal Communication: The exchange of thoughts, feelings, emotions, etc., through non-verbal means is considered Non-verbal communication. The non-verbal means can be body movements or postures, eye contact, facial expressions, gestures, touch and use of space, etc. All these are broadly categorized as body language. Non-verbal communication is speechless communication in which expressions are used to communicate or express rather than words. There are different elements of non-verbal communication i.e.
    • Facial expressions: It includes communication using different expressions of the face like sadness, happiness, anger, fear, surprise, disgust, etc.
    • Body movement and posture: This includes body movements and postures, i.e., how people move, sit, walk, stand, etc., and also communicates much information.
    • Gestures: Communicating through gestures includes using hands in different ways, i.e., pointing out, waving, etc.
    • Eye contact: Another non-verbal communication element is making eye contact with people. The way of looking at someone shows the communication of different aspects like affection, attraction, interest, etc. Continuing the conversation by maintaining the interest and response of another person also requires eye contact features.
    • Touch: We communicate through different ways by touch, like a warm handshake and hug, a gentle pat on the back, etc.
    • Space: Physical space is also a type of non-verbal communication that transmits messages like affection, dominance, aggression, etc.
Examples of non-verbal communication: While sitting in job interviews, our non-verbal communication plays a great impact on interview selection. Crossing arms or not making eye contact by the candidate during the interview communicates a message of disinterest or arrogant behavior to the interviewer.
While giving a presentation to a group of people, maintaining eye contact with only a few or just one person communicates poor presentation skills or less confidence in the presenter.

Apart from these three main types - verbal, written, and non-verbal communication -, there are different other categories of communication as well that include:

  • Electronic Communication: When the transmission of a message between the sender and receiver is through electronic or digital technologies, it’s said to be electronic communication. We can convey both verbal and written communication in electronic form. Different mediums of verbal electronic communication can be phone, web conferencing, etc., while e-mails and text messages are meant for written communication.
  • Visual Communication: We also communicate by visualizing things like signboards, hoardings, banners, maps, pictures, etc. Through these modes of visual communication, a recipient receives information.
Example: While planning for a tour, one can get details about the tour place through maps like a route to reach, hotels, shopping areas, etc. So the map is the medium by which one can get information about the place. Similarly, different sign boards like signboards for different restaurants, education centers, etc., give information about that particular place which is a form of visual communication.
  • Formal Communication: Formal communication happens when information is exchanged at an organizational level, i.e., between employees and management, a superior and a subordinate, or between same-rank colleagues, etc. In this time of communication, the information flow is balanced and controlled by the organization hierarchy. Due to proper control, the information can be delivered to the desired place without breaking the flow. Formal communication includes both verbal and written communication.
Example: Formal meetings or presentations, formal e-mails in offices are a few examples of this type of communication.

Formal communication is further categorized as Vertical and Horizontal communication.

Vertical and Horizontal Communication

Principles of Communication[4]

The seven C’s of communication is a list of principles to ensure all communications adhere to. Their purpose is to help ensure the person you’re communicating with hears what you’re trying to say. The seven C’s are: clear, correct, complete, concrete, concise, considered, and courteous.

  • Clear: There are several stages to clarity.
    • Firstly, it’s important to be clear about the purpose of the message you’re delivering. The recipient should be made aware of why they are receiving the message and what you’re trying to achieve by delivering it. If there are multiple goals, each should be laid out separately.
    • Secondly, it’s essential that the content of the communication is clear. You should avoid jargon, use simple language, use simple structures, and focus on the core points of your message.
  • Correct: It’s essential that both the factual information and the language and grammar you use are correct. If your audience spots errors in either, they will be distracted, and your credibility will be greatly reduced. This will reduce the effectiveness of your communication.
  • Complete: Completeness is often one of the most important of the 7 Cs of communication. When creating a message, it’s important to give the recipient all the information they need to follow your line of reasoning and reach the same conclusions you have. This level of detail will differ in different situations, and you should adjust your communications accordingly. In addition, you should make things as easy as possible for the recipient. For example, if you are issuing a “call to action,” provide explicit guidance on that action. Increasingly it’s common to include things like hyperlinks in written communications or to attach FAQs, both of which help audiences access a complete set of information while ensuring that core communications focus on core messages.
  • Concrete: When shaping your communication, you must ensure that you are specific and that the logic and messages you’re using fit together, build on each other, and support each other. Your arguments should be based on solid facts and opinions from credible sources, and you should share irrefutable data to support your argument. It may be important to help bring the solid nature of what you’ve created to life for your audience through examples that show the relevance of your messages for them as individuals.

7 Cs of Communication

  • Concise: When communicating messages of this nature, it’s important to stick to the point and keep your messages short and simple. Don’t use 10 words if you can use five. Don’t repeat your messages. The more you say, the more risk there is of confusion. Avoid that risk by focusing solely on the key points you must deliver.
  • Courteous: You can increase the effectiveness of your communications by being polite and showing your audience that you respect them. Your messages should be friendly, professional, considerate, respectful, open, and honest. To help ensure you are courteous, you should always use some empathy and consider your messages from the point of view of the audience.
  • Considered & Coherent: The last of the 7 Cs of communication is considered or coherent. If your communications are not coherent they will not be effective. To help make sure your communications are considered coherent you should have a logical flow, and your style, tone, and language should be consistent throughout. In addition to ensuring that each communication you issue is coherent within itself, you should also ensure consistency of message when delivering multiple communications.

Benefits of Effective Communication[5]

Communication is a process of exchange of information, facts, ideas, thoughts, and opinions between two or more persons or groups of persons. When the communication is clear, complete, concise, correct, and fully understood by the recipient, it is known as ‘Effective – Communication.’ If the communication is vague, incomplete, incorrect, and difficult to understand, it may be termed ‘Ineffective Communication.’ Ineffective communication produces no good result; on the contrary, it is the breeding ground of misunderstanding, mistrust, animosity, conflict, and chaos. In a business organization, effective communication is of utmost importance as it helps in decision-making, speeds up the flow of work, increases productivity, makes business relationships strong, increases customer satisfaction, and solves many other problems. The benefits of effective business communications are:

  • Helps in Making Decisions: A decision, in order to be correct and appropriate, must be based on adequate and correct information, which only effective communication can bring together.
  • Speeds up Flow of Work: Flow of work is not obstructed if orders, instructions, suggestions, etc., are communicated properly and timely.
  • Increases Productivity: Effective communication allows the team of workers to concentrate on their respective jobs removing confusion from their minds. It increases their ability, efficiency, and quality of performance, which ultimately leads to higher productivity.
  • Improves Job Satisfaction: Effective communication between the employees and the supervisor in a workplace can boost job satisfaction at both ends. The employees think that they are essential to the organization, and on the other hand, the supervisor also feels satisfied that his orders are carried out by the employees. When the employees know clearly what to do when to do it, and about the reward for their performance, they can accomplish their jobs efficiently. They remain satisfied and loyal to their higher authority.
  • Saves Time and Money: If communication is not understood properly, the further conversation will be needed for clarity involving extra time and money. Effective communication saves time and money by preventing multiple communication. Selection of appropriate means of communication from among various methods (e.g., telephone, mobile phone, e-mail, fax, letter, face-to-face conversation, etc.) as per requirement can save both time and money.

Benefits of Effective Communication

  • Boosts up Promotional Activity: Goods and services are brought to the knowledge of the consumers through communication, and promotional activities (e.g., advertisement, use of different media, etc.) are made effective through it.
  • Makes Business Relationship Strong: Fruitful communication with outside people and organizations (e.g., creditors, banks, insurance companies, co-business managers, etc.) make a healthy relationship with all concerned.
  • Enhances Professional Image: How an organization communicates casts an impression of its efficiency in communication. Good communication signifies good and professionally efficient organization.
  • Increases Customer Satisfaction: Customer satisfaction is a vital aspect of consideration for a business organization. The existence and growth of a business largely depend upon it. Effective communication is necessary in achieving the confidence of the customers. It clarifies all the queries (regarding products, services, availability, prices, quality, variety, etc.) of the customers and makes them happy and satisfied.
  • Solves Various Problems: Innumerable problems (e.g., gossip, rumors, conflict, mistrust among the employees, managers, etc.) crop up in a business organization due to poor communication or no communication. Effective communication can solve problems easily. It establishes a link between the managers and the employees. Their relationship is eased, and various problems and grievances are removed.

Barriers to Effective Communication[6]

Within the process of communication, it is apparent that barriers and obstacles do occur, which may or may not be avoidable; therefore, individuals should inculcate all the required skills, attitudes, and traits amongst themselves in order to effectively overcome all communication barriers.

  • Physical Barriers: Physical barriers in the workplace include:
    • Marked out territories, empires, and fiefdoms into which strangers are not allowed
    • Closed office doors, barrier screens, and separate areas for people of different status
    • Large working areas or working in one unit that is physically separate from others
Research shows that one of the most important factors in building cohesive teams is proximity. As long as people still have a personal space they can call their own, being close to others aids communication because it helps people get to know one another.
  • Perceptual Barriers: It can be hard to work out how to improve your communication skills. The problem with communicating with others is that we all see the world differently. If we didn't, we would have no need to communicate: something like extrasensory perception would take its place. The following anecdote reminds us how our thoughts, assumptions, and perceptions shape our own realities.
A traveler was walking down a road when he met a man from the next town.
"Excuse me," he said. "I am hoping to stay in the next town tonight. Can you tell me what the townspeople are like?"
"Well," said the townsman, "how did you find the people in the last town you visited?"
"Oh, they were an irascible bunch. Kept to themselves. Took me for a fool. Overcharged me for what I got. Gave me very poor service."
"Well, then," said the townsman, "you'll find them pretty much the same there."
  • Emotional Barriers: One of the chief barriers to open and free communications is emotional. The emotional barrier is comprised mainly of fear, mistrust, and suspicion. The roots of our emotional mistrust of others lie in our childhood and infancy when we were taught to be careful about what we said to others.
"Mind your P's and Q's."
"Don't speak until you're spoken to.".
"Children should be seen and not heard.".
As a result, many people hold back from communicating their thoughts and feelings to others. They feel vulnerable. While some caution may be wise, excessive fear of what others might think stunts our development as effective communicators and our ability to form meaningful relationships.
  • Cultural Barriers: When we join a group and wish to remain in it, sooner or later, we will need to adopt the behavior patterns of the group. These are the behaviors that the group accept as signs of belonging. The group rewards such behavior through acts of recognition, approval and inclusion. In groups that are happy to accept you, and where you are happy to conform, there is a mutuality of interest and a high level of win-win contact. Where there are barriers to your membership of a group, game-playing replaces good communication.
  • Language Barriers: Our language may present barriers to others who are not familiar with our expressions, buzz-words and jargon. When we couch our communication in such language, it excludes others. Understanding this is key to developing good public speaking skills and report writing skills. In a global marketplace, the greatest compliment we can pay another person is to talk to them in their own language. One of the more chilling memories of the Cold War was the threat by the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev who said to the Americans at the United Nations:
"We will bury you!"
This was taken to mean a threat of nuclear annihilation. However, a more accurate reading of Khrushchev's words would have been:
"We will overtake you!"
By this, he meant economic superiority. It was not just the language used that was the problem. The fear and suspicion that the West had of the Soviet Union led to a more alarmist and sinister interpretation.
  • Gender Barriers: There are distinct differences between the speech patterns of men and women. A woman speaks between 22,000 and 25,000 words daily, whereas a man speaks between 7,000 and 10,000. In childhood, girls speak earlier than boys and, at the age of three, have a vocabulary twice that of boys. The reason for this lies in the wiring of a man's and woman's brains. When a man speaks, he uses the left side of his brain but not a specific area. When a woman speaks, she uses both left and right sides in two specific locations. This means that men speak in a linear, logical, and compartmentalized way, demonstrating left-brain thinking. Women speak more freely, mixing logic and emotion, using f both sides of the brain. This also explains why women talk for much longer than men each day.
  • Interpersonal Barriers: There are six ways in which people can distance themselves from one another:
    1. Withdrawal: Withdrawal is an absence of interpersonal contact. It is both refusals to be in touch and time alone.
    2. Rituals: Rituals are meaningless, repetitive routines without real contact.
    3. Pastimes: Pastimes fill up time with others in social but superficial activities.
    4. Working: Work activities follow the rules and procedures of contact but no more than that.
    5. Games: Games are subtle, manipulative interactions that are about winning and losing. They include "rackets" and "stamps".
    6. Closeness: The purpose of interpersonal contact is closeness. Good interpersonal contact promotes honesty and acceptance.

See Also