Unit 1.3 – Process of Communication

Transmission of ideas, facts & figures from one person to another, elements of communication process (message, sender, encoding, channel, receiver, decoding, acting & feedback).

Act of Communication

Communication is a dynamic process involving a series of actions and reactions with an intent to achieve a goal. How does it work? Think that you are in a conversation with your friend. As a sender or a communicator, you would formulate (encode) an idea or message as best as you can, and pass on that message to your friend, who to the best of their ability will then receive and acts on the message (decode). He responds by formulating his own message and communicates back to you. This is known as a feedback. If you think your message is understood or well received by your friend, then you can go ahead with the next idea that you have in mind and the conversation can continue on. Communication is, therefore, a two-way process, in which the ability to receive is as important as the ability to send. Feedback is crucial in making the communication effective because it tells you how your message is being interpreted. It can make or break the communication process.

In the above diagram, the communicator is the encoder, the message is the symbol (verbal or non-verbal), the channel is one of the transmission mediums, the receiver is the decoder, feedback is the response to the message, and noise is any interruption that breaks down the communication.

These, in fact, are essential elements that help facilitate the communication process. Each element plays an important role in making communication effective.

Communicator (sender or encoder) is the one who initiates the communication process. A communicator may be an editor, a reporter, a filmmaker, a teacher, a writer, a speaker, a leader or anybody who takes the initiative to start a dialogue. Before one speaks or writes, the message is conceptualized first and then encoded. An effective communication depends on the communication skill, knowledge level, and attitude of the communicator and their intentions towards the receiver. An ability to think, organize thoughts quickly and express himself effectively are some of the attributes of a good communicator.

Somebody who uses appropriate words, sentences, tone, etc. may be considered a good communicator. He does not fumble, does not look for words and his message is accompanied by appropriate gestures and delivered at an acceptable pace. Another element mentioned here, is knowledge level. We must be able to find out the knowledge level of the persons on a particular topic before we start the dialogue. Also, a person must never look down upon the people with whom he is communicating. He must never think that the receiver is inferior to him. An open dialogue requires one to maintain a mature attitude and mutual respect for one another.

Encoding is the formulation of messages in the communicator’s mind. That is, the communicator not only translates his purpose (ideas, thoughts or information) into a message but, also decides on which medium to communicate his planned message. He must choose the best form of media (speaking, writing, signaling or gesturing) for the receiver to understand him. For instance, an illiterate receiver will fail to understand a written message, but can understand it well if it were to be told orally.

A message is what a communicator actually produces for transmission to occur. It is done through the use of spoken or written words, photographs, paintings, films, posters, etc. A great deal of skill and effort is required to formulate a message the meaning of which should be understandable to the receiver. The purpose of communication is to influence the receiver and get favorable responses so that eventually, appropriate decisions can be made. A successful communication therefore, depends on what we say and how we say it. We can easily enhance or distort effective communication depending on the delivery of our messages. For instance, in an interview, your intention is to impress interviewer, but if you give unclear answers, the interviewer may perceive that you are incompetent for the job.

A channel is the vehicle through which a message is carried from the communicator to the receiver. The channels of communication take on many forms – written, spoken, verbal, non-verbal, mass media like TV, radio, newspapers, books, etc. Choosing the appropriate channel most suitable for the message as well as for whoever is receiving it, is a complicated task.

The success and failure of the communication is dependent on the right channel selection. For example, if you have prepared a campaign on ‘National Integration’, what media would you choose to reach the intended audience? After selecting the media, you would then have to decide if it is feasible cost wise, and take into account the number of people and the kinds of people you want your message to be exposed to. Though your intention might be to reach out to the maximum number of people but to increase efficiency, your attempt should be to minimize time and cost in the total information exchange effort.

The receiver, at the other end of the communication, is the recipient of the message and must have the same intention as the communicator. If the receiver does not have the ability to listen, to read, to think, he will not be able to receive and decode the messages in the manner the communicator wants him to. The receiver is the most important link in the communication process.

Decoding is the interpretation of the message by the receiver; he or she looks for the meaning in the message that is most common to both the receiver and the communicator.

Feedback is the response or acknowledgement of receiver to the communicator’s message. The exchange is possible only if the receiver responds. In this way, both participants in communication interact and constantly exchange roles. In a face-to- face communication, the receiver responds naturally, directly and immediately. This provides the communicator an opportunity to improve and make his communication more effective. Feedback provides an opportunity to evaluate what is right or wrong about a particular communication and further strengthen the conversation by allowing both the communicator and receiver to share more ideas.

Noise is any interruption that can creep in at any point in the communication process and make less ineffective. Our environment is one major cause that interferes with message reception; noises from the roadside, constant chattering of individuals outside the communication act, blaring loudspeaker, faulty transmission, etc. Noise can also occur in other forms; poor handwriting, heavy accent or soft speech, communication in a poorly lit room, etc. create barriers to effective communication. For smooth and effective communication, it is therefore necessary to eliminate or reduce noise as much as possible.