2 Tutorials that teach The Communication Process
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The Communication Process

The Communication Process


This lesson introduces the steps of the communication process.

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Introduction to Psychology

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This lesson talks about communication and breaking down the steps of the communication process. By the end you'll be able to answer a few questions: What is the communication process? Why is a confirmation message so important? What are communication filters? How can I be aware of them? What are the best methods of communication to use for certain situations? You will cover:
  1. Communication Process
  2. Communication Filters
  3. Communication Methods

1. Communication Process

It is possible to break down the communication process into some simple, bite-sized steps: File:650-comprocs_20(2).png On the left, you can see the sender, and the receiver is on the right. The sender will send an initial message. She's going to start the communication. The receiver is going to process this. He's going to digest the information. He'll send off a confirmation message that, hopefully, the sender will receive. In turn, the sender will confirm that this is a match.

The person moving information from him- or herself to another person.
The person receiving information from the sender.
Initial Message
Information shared by the sender that begins the communication process.

What happens when it doesn't go so well? Say the sender here sends the initial message, it is received, and now the receiver sends back a confirmation message indicating what he has interpreted as the priority or the message. The sender discovers that there's been a miscommunication. File:689-miscomm.png

Confirmation Message
The receiver's explanation of his or her understanding of the initial message.

Take a look at the full communication process to see how this miscommunication is resolved: File:652-commprocesde.png

The receiver's confirmation of the initial message is pretty vague. Our sender senses the miscommunication because the receiver did not confirm the time of 8 AM. Now you can see this could be a change in the communication, and it can go on and on, zigzagging back and forth until they have established a clear set of communication.

Not all communication follows this long, zigzag approach. Sometimes communication works really well, just like this: File:653-clearcom.png

It's important to have clear, concise communication. What if the receiver never sent a confirmation message at all? What would happen here?


The sender may make assumptions because of the lack of confirmation. In the scenario above, this works, but this could still cause issues. The sender doesn't know if he's received the message. She doesn't know that he can deliver this. He may usually come through, but look back to a previous example. He couldn't make that 8:00 AM deadline. You can see why the confirmation message is absolutely critical in the communication process.

This is what could have happened instead: File:655-rightcom.png

Because she sent a request for confirmation, everyone is accountable, and there's clear communication.

2. Communication Filters

Various elements may cause miscommunication. These elements are called communication filters. There are two types: internal and external. These are things that interrupt the communication process.

Internal filters come in the form of cultural backgrounds, language differences, different contexts, emotions, and personal bias.

Internal Filter
Internal elements that interfere with the communication process.

External filters are elements introduced by the environment or the method of communication, such as noise, audio distortion, penmanship, or on-the-go communication. Just being aware of these elements helps elevate your level of communication.

External Filter
External elements that interfere with the communication process.


Take a look at an example where filters get in the way and interrupt the flow of communication. Say there is an urgent situation that needs to be handled right now. It is important to let the receiver of any message know the external filters you're experiencing, such as being on the bus and sending the message from a smartphone. File:657-filterex.png Now there are some issues with the initial message due to filters. One example is that the smartphone's autocorrect has changed "ensure" to "evaluate." The message should read: "On that note, the colors need high-level scans to ensure the logos are client-approved."

You can see all the things this initial message has left the receiver wondering. Filters have impaired communication.

3. Methods of Communication

Communication can come in many hybrids, but for this tutorial, there are three communication methods for you to look at:

  • Virtual
  • Face-to-face
  • Written

Virtual meetings include things such as conference calls, GoToMeetings, Skype, Google Hangout, and any other virtual method that allows people to meet when they're not in the same geography. This type of communication is convenient, it's conducive to rapid brainstorming, and you can go back and forth with some ideas. There's a sense of in-person exchange where there's this possibility of collaboration.

However, there is a threat of technical interruption. The meeting is cut short if the internet is interrupted in some way. Generally, when something is tech-based, there may be a delay in communication. There may be an overlap when people are talking or an awkward pause because people are afraid to overlap. You also miss nonverbal communication, or body language. It is also possible to mute a speaker and have a different conversation while you're communicating something else.

When is the virtual method the best to use?
The virtual method is used best when geography is a challenge, when meetings repeat or you have repeating check-ins, when you're presenting information, or when you're needing a group discussion and you need some rapid-fire brainstorming.

Unlike the virtual method, face-to-face interaction does have the benefit of non-verbal communication. You can see if someone's uncomfortable with some information. There's clear audio and easy visuals.

The con, of course, is geography. You're limited to the people in your office, city, or area.

When is the face-to-face method the best to use?
This method is best used when collaborating, designing, discussing sensitive or personal topics, or sharing complex information, particularly if participant location isn't an issue.

Written communication is nice because you have documentation; you can see a history of exchange. It allows people to process the information on their own time, and you can include attachments, links, and any other information. You have decreased interruption because you can digest that written communication when it's best for you. You have the time to be cohesive and organized.

One con is that the collaboration speed is decreased while you wait for the response. There's also an increased risk of misunderstanding and misinterpretations of tone.

When is the written method the best to use?
The written method is used best when recapping processes or plans, when you need clarification, or when the communication is simple and straightforward.
The communication process involves the sender, the receiver, the initial message, and the confirmation message. Not sending a confirmation message, or sending one that misinterprets the sender's intent, can threaten the goal. Communication filters can be internal and external. They can interrupt the communication process. There are three methods of communication that you learned about: virtual, face-to-face, and written communications.

Source: This work is adapted from Sophia author Kelly Nordstrom

  • Sender

    The person moving information from him/herself to another person.

  • Receiver

    The person receiving information from the sender.

  • Initial Message

    Informatin shared by the sender that begins the communication process.

  • Confirmation Message

    The receiver's explanation of his or her understanding of the initial message.

  • External Filter

    External elements that interfere with the communication process.

  • Internal Filter

    Internal elements that interfere with the communication process.