In this lesson, we’ll discuss the general process behind communication by focusing on:
As human beings, we spend our days communicating with each other:
We need to communicate in order to get things done, and to have relationships.
a. Codes, Symbols, and Messages
Communication can be defined as the process of moving information from person to person using symbolic codes. These codes are simply sets of symbolic symbols with consistent meanings used to hold and convey information.
You’ve likely heard of codes being used in a variety of situations. During World War II, for example, telegraphs and Morse Code were used; we had experts trying to break the code in order to find out what the enemy was trying to communicate.
Today, we even have archaeologists going into caves, trying to decode the hieroglyphics that the cavemen left; these hieroglyphics were nothing but a series of pictures.
So whether it's keystrokes, the pictures in a cave, or letters in an alphabet that make up words, communication involves trying to decode symbols, which are representations of a concept in a tangible form.
When you put these symbols together, they form words or pictures. This creates information, or a sequence of symbols that can be interpreted as a message; a message is a “packet” of information which has been encoded.
We all know about information and messages. We live in a world of information overload, and messages come to us through a variety of sources:
b. Senders and Receivers
When these symbols are put into codes, they are moved from the sender to the receiver.
In the context of communication, a sender is the person moving information from him or herself or another; a receiver is person who gets the information from the sender.
Two people who are trying to communicate with one another; we’ll call them Jack and Tony. Jack is our sender, as he has a message that he wants to send to Tony, our receiver.
Jack has to decide how he wants to send his message, and what kind of code -- spoken or written -- he’s going to use. Jack might decide to email, tweet, blog, call, or maybe just talk to Tony in person if they're in the same room. Depending on what Jack does, Tony is going to either read or hear what Jack says.
While we’ve all probably thought at some point that it would be convenient if we could just take what's in our heads and move it over into someone else's head as raw information, we know that this doesn’t work.
Jack can't just move this information into Tony's head, but let’s say Jack and Tony both speak English. This may seem like it makes the transmission very simple because we tend to imagine communication like throwing a ball when the ball is the message. Jack has the ball, and he’s going to throw it to Tony. Tony throws it back to Jack.
While communication may seem as simple as throwing a ball back and forth, it's a little more like throwing jello. If someone throws you jello, you can try catch it, but you probably don't get all of it because there are blobs of it that fall apart.
This deterioration occurs because of filters, or factors that can prevent a message from being received, or cause the message to be received or interpreted in a way other than the one meant by the sender.
There are two types of filters that can interfere with communication:
Let's say Jack wants to send his message to Tony by calling. But when he calls, there’s static, and Tony can't get the message. Or maybe they're in a restaurant together, but it’s very noisy because there's a band playing. Tony can't hear what Jack is trying to say. If Tony is multitasking by checking his email while he's also trying to talk to Jack, he may not get all of what Jack is trying to tell him. These are all examples of external filters.
Internal filters could also affect the transmission of information here. Tony's a little annoyed with Jack because Jack says something that kind of upsets Tony. So now Tony’s not even paying attention to the message; he's just focusing on the statement that Jack made that he found upsetting.
Or maybe Jack says to Tony, “Get this to me ASAP.” And Tony thinks, “ASAP, as soon as possible. Okay, I'll get it him in the middle of the week after I finish my other project.” But what Jack actually meant by ASAP was right now. If Jack is Tony's boss, and Tony doesn’t get the information to him right away because he misinterpreted Jack’s message, you can see how that would lead to a conflict.
b. Confirmation Messages
While filters can cause a communication-related conflict, there is a way to solve this confusion. Before there can be what we would call a communication event, the sender needs a confirmation message.
A confirmation message is a message sent by the receiver to the sender indicating that a message has been received, and indicating how the message has been interpreted.
Tony can get back to Jack and say, “Let me clarify what you mean by ASAP. Is it okay if I get it to you next week?" Then Jack would have the opportunity to say, “No, that’s not what I meant.”
This a way of clarifying the message, and while it may sometimes be unnecessary to this, it’s an important part of communication when there are multiple ways a message can be interpreted.
Communication is critical to relationships, and it's vital to communicate clearly to avoid conflict. Sometimes the communication process is not quite as smooth as we think it should be because of the external and internal filters, so a confirmation message can be helpful for clarification.
In this lesson, you learned that the elements of communication are codes containing symbols which form information that is transmitted as a message from a sender to a receiver.
You now understand the impact of communication on conflict: External and internal filters can affect how a message is received, but a confirmation message from the receiver can provide an opportunity for clarification. Communicating more clearly with others can help us resolve or even prevent conflict.
Source: Adapted from Sophia tutorial by Marlene Johnson.
The process of moving information from person to person using symbolic codes.
A sequence of symbols that can be interpreted as a message.
A "packet" of information which has been encoded and is moved from sender to receiver.
In communication, the person moving information from him or herself to another.
In communication, the person receiving information from another.
A representation of a concept in a tangible form.
A set of symbols with consistent meanings used to hold and convey information.
A factor that can prevent a message from being received or cause it to be received or interpreted in a way other than the one meant by the sender.
A message sent by receiver to sender indicating that a message has been received and indicating how the message has been interpreted.