Understanding Communication

Whatever the industry, sector or organisation, everyone needs to communicate effectively.  The ability to ask appropriate questions and to listen carefully to the answers are among the key communication skills that everyone must develop.  Everyone needs to make well-judged choices about the best ways to give information; to persuade others, where necessary; and to give and receive feedback about how things are being carried out.

What ‘communication’ means

Communication is the process by which we successfully transfer information from one person to another.  If Sarah knows something that Ram needs to know, then Sarah must communicate the information to Ram.  You might like to think of effective communication as a process of sharing – so that the person receiving the information can understand and use it.

We communicate in words and in actions, either close up and personal or at a distance and in mass.  We have a wide range of ways to send our information including face-to-face conversation, telephone conversation, sign language, email, newspaper, book, poster, internet website and signalling by morse code, semaphore or lights.  What’s more, many of these ways of sending and receiving information are available around the clock.

A four-part process

All communication can be considered as having four parts, which are the:

  • message
  • transmitter
  • receiver
  • channel

The message is what you know and want someone else to know.  The transmitter is the person delivering the message.  The receiver is the person who receives the message and the channel is how you send the message.

The message

What you know, what the receiver is likely to know and what the receiver is capable of understanding should determine what you say and how you do so.

If a tourist who spoke poor English asked you for directions to the local swimming pool, you might not expect the person to know the are or to recognise minor local landmarks.  You might suggest that the tourist go by a main road.  But if you ere giving directions to a neighbour, you might refer to a mutual friend’s house, a well-hidden footpath or even to a building that has been demolished.

Similarly, if you were talking to people who understand computer terms, then you would use computer terminology, but if you were speaking to customers who were looking for their first computer, then you should avoid the technical terms and use as many everyday terms as possible.

The transmitter

The person giving the information is the transmitter.  An effective transmitter ensures that the message is transmitted so that it is received and understood – it is clear what the receiver needs to know or to do.

The receiver

Think about the people receiving your message.  Do they really need the information?  Is it important or urgent?  Many people with email receive unnecessary information, simply because it is quick and easy to send.  So, send information only to the people who really need to know.

The channel

Talking is one of the most useful channels of communication.  It is direct and be customised to suit the receiver.

Talking is oral communication (by word of mouth), sometimes referred to as ‘verbal’ communication (by words).

Oral communication is always accompanied by non-verbal communication (sending a message other than by words).  The expression on your face, your hand movements, posture, proximity (how close you position yourself to other people) and even your tone of voice are all forms of non-verbal communication that can say just as much as the words themselves.

Oral and non-verbal communication are together described as interpersonal communication, that is, communication directly between people.  Of course, not all communication is directly between people:  some is written or recorded and uses channels like the post, radio or the internet.