Introduction to Communication
|Upon the completion of this unit, the learner will be able to:
“Man is by nature a social animal”, said the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle. Human beings are naturally gregarious in nature which warrants sharing of both material commodities as well as internal abstractions like thoughts, ideas, emotions and feelings. Communication is an essential tool which has a foundational role in the collective existence of human beings. Can you imagine a day without being able to communicate with others? Communication is not just talking or sending messages. Even a slight expression on the face that can convey meaning to another person is communication.
Communication, Encoding, Decoding, Sender, Receiver, Message
The word ‘communication’ has its root in the Latin word ‘communicare’ which means “to share”. It may be defined as a process by which information is exchanged between individuals using a common system of symbols, signs, gestures or behaviour. The aim of communication is to put across the ideas, thoughts and feelings in the mind of a person to others. It is vital in both our personal and professional lives to have good communication skills.
How does communication take place? Let us see.
There are many models that theorise the communication process. To read more on it, refer to the Suggested Readings. Here,let us focus on the very basic one which features a sender, receiver, message and feedback. A sender is a person who initiates the communication process. He/ she produces the message and passes it to the receiver, who processes and understands it before sending a feedback to the sender.
Let us look at an example:
When A meets B –
A: Hello, how are you? Haven’t seen you for a long time!
B: I am doing well, how about you? Happy to see you.
Here, A is the sender. The message is sent to the receiver B, who in turn processes it and gives reply which acts as feedback. Feedback is necessary for communication to continue. Let us look at another example. Imagine going to a coffee shop. The communication would proceed somewhat in the following fashion:
Waiter: Good morning, Sir. What do you wish to order?
Customer: I will have a coffee, thank you.
Waiter: Do you wish to have some snacks? We have some fresh batches. Customer: I am not sure, what is the best you have today?
Waiter: Our chocolate donuts are the best in town. Would you like to try one? Customer: Sure, please bring one.
Waiter: A coffee and chocolate donut, is that all?
Customer: Yes, thank you.
You can notice how the feedback becomes the message on which further communication takes place. Communication is thus a two-way process. It requires the active participation of all agents involved to be effective.
Human beings, since prehistoric times, have communicated using gestures, sounds and mirroring of expressions. Later, language originated and communication has become more effective. Written communication too has a long history which can be traced back to ancient civilisations. You might have heard of cuneiform and hieroglyphs. Human beings used to write on stones and rocks till they discovered papyrus.
The invention of paper in China was a milestone in the history of communication. There are several interesting snippets from history associated with human communication. Have you heard of using homing pigeons to send messages?
Let us now move on to the history of communication.
Note:Do you know?
- The last of the pigeon-post services in the world is in Odisha, India.
- It is maintained by the Police Department of the state.
- Though it stopped service in 2008, the department still maintains 150 pigeons in Cuttack and use them for ceremonious purposes.
The invention of printing was yet another momentous landmark in communication. Later, many new technologies evolved, like photography, telegraph, fax, radio, television, internet, etc. Today, we are living in a time where the whole world is connected like a global village. Human communication has come a long way through the ages!
1.1.2 Types of Communication
Now that you have got a basic idea of communication, let us move on to the different types of communication. Communication can be:
188.8.131.52 Flow of Information
It is when there is the flow of information from the sender to the receiver and there is no scope for feedback. For instance, when you are reading a book, you are the receiver of information.
It is one in which both the sender and receiver are involved in transmitting information. It is also known as interpersonal communication. For instance, instant messaging is a form of two-way communication.
Two-way communication can be explained as follows:
- Symmetric, when the parties involved are equal. For instance, a conversation between your friend and you.
- Asymmetric, when one party involved has more power or is dominant. For instance, a teacher giving a lecture.
1.1.3 Methods of Communication
184.108.40.206 Verbal Communication
Verbal communication involves the use of language for the purpose of conveying the intended message. This includes communication in spoken/oral and written forms.
- Oral Communication:
Here, the medium of communication is the spoken word, and the information is passed on using sound. Face-to-face communication, telephonic conversations, and voice notes, to name a few, fall under this category.
- Written Communication:
This form of communication involves the exchange of information in the written form. A wide range of forms use the written word as the medium – e-mails, texts, letters, reports, SMS, posts on social media platforms, documents, handbooks, posters and flyers.
220.127.116.11 Non-verbal Communication
Non-verbal communication relays messages without the transmission or exchange of words. This could comprise of two major forms. In both cases, non-verbal communication often enhances or further enriches the message conveyed through verbal communication.
- Visual/Symbolic Communica-tion:
This refers to communication that takes place with the help of symbols, drawings, placards, illustrations and other graphical aids. An effective illustration of the same would be the use of traffic lights or traffic symbols on roads.
- Physical Non-verbal Communication:
Here, verbal communication is supplemented through the use of gestures, body language and expressions. These may be deployed to communicate mood, opinion, or even a reaction to a message that is being relayed. This includes elements, such as body language, facial expressions, tone, posture, stance, touch and gaze. Other aspects, such as eye contact and proxemics, the physical distance maintained between two communicators can be a part of this mode of communication.
1.1.4 Major Styles of Communication
You might have had unpleasant experiences with an angry person at some point in your life, haven’t you? How did he/she behave? Aggressive communication refers to such a kind of communication where strong emotions are exhibited. Raised voice or shouting, gestures that reflect hatred or anger, irritability, domination, threatening, etc. are some of the characteristics of such communication. For instance, imagine a bully at school. Those at the receiving end of the aggressive kind of communication would not find it a good experience at all. It is not an effective kind of communication and offers no scope for feedback.
When the receiver accepts everything in silence though he/she disagrees to the ideas, it can be termed as passive communication. It shows a lack of confidence in the person who easily yields to the other person, and it may be due to indifference or to avoid confrontation. It is not a healthy practice to be passive in communication as it can lead to long-term issues like anger build-up, stress, etc. For instance, in a patriarchal society like ours, girls are taught to be remain passive and accept everything in silence.
Some persons may appear passive on the surface but express their disagreements in subtle forms. They never confront but use tactics like muttering to oneself, sulking, spreading rumours, giving the silent treatment, giving back-handed compliments, etc. They may seem cooperative but in reality are resentful.
It is the most effective style of communication where a person expresses his/her feelings, ideas and needs while considering that of others too. It has scope for all the participants as there is no domination/subordination by anyone. It shows the confidence of the communicator to exhibit his/ her ideas openly. There is clarity in the assertive style of communication and it leaves no scope for misunderstanding.
1.1.5 Encoding and Decoding
Let us now look at two important concepts in the communication process, namely encoding and decoding.
Human language and communication are symbolic in nature. Ideas are converted into symbols (verbal or graphic) and transmitted. Encoding is the process by which the sender creates the message. Thoughts or ideas in the mind of the sender are converted into symbols or codes before transmitting to the receiver. Decoding is the process by which the receiver understands the codes and gets the meaning of the message.
For instance, let us consider a scene which you might be familiar with from a lot of movies. A presents a bouquet of red roses to B. Red roses are symbolic of love. When A wants to express his feeling, he uses the symbol of red rose. This is encoding. B receives the bouquet and understands that the red roses are symbolic of A’s feeling. See how a feeling was encoded into a symbol and how it was decoded. Here, the bouquet of red roses became the medium through which communication of the feeling took place.
Let us look at another example. Imagine that A is a tourist who has come to India and lost his way. He wants to ask for directions to reach his hotel and talks to B, a pedestrian. The message A wants to convey is that he needs help to find directions. He encodes the message into words.
- Excuse me, how can I get to XYZ Hotel from here?
Here, B understands English, decodes the message in his mind and replies:
- Take this road for about 100 meters and then take the right turn. You will find a bus stop. Take Bus Number 350 and get off at ABC Street. The hotel is directly opposite to the bus stop. Or, if you wish to take a cab, there is a taxicab stand near the bus stop. It would cost you around Rs 200.
Notice how B adds additional information which can be of help to A. Imagine that B does not comprehend English. He cannot decode A’s message. Here, the communication becomes ineffective.
Types of Communication
Process of Communication