Saturday, July 09, 2011

Understanding Communication Process: continuation of series

See archive over last two-three weeks for related posts.  These are lectures I wrote for a business communication course.

No one would talk much in society if they knew how often they misunderstood others. - Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

Lecture 1:  What Makes Business Communication Unique?

1.1 Communication:  Is it as simple as described in textbook models?
  1. The idea we communicate is not original.  It is part of continuing, dynamic process.  And having an idea doesn’t mean you want to share it.
  2. Encoding is complex.
    1. First, you must understand the context and audience.
    2.  Second, you must make a commitment to sharing (effort). 
    3. Third, you must decide if the entire message should be shared through encoding. 
    4. Fourth, a channel has to be chosen.  The channel determines the style and to some degree content of the message. 
    5. Fifth, encoding the idea into a form that can be sent through the channel may take several steps.  There is constant reflection and reflexive thinking as the meaning is being encoding.  The meaning itself will probably change; looking at it objectively in writing (outline, memo) might change one’s commitment to the effort or one’s understanding of the meaning or one’s belief that the message should be sent now or ever. 
    6. Over the process of time, the audience and or situation may evolve into something else.  Even in spontaneous oral communication some of this should take place, depending on one’s learning style.  Some auditory learners actually learn by verbalizing their ideas; they are encoding even as they send.  Impetuous, verbal, gregarious, or extroverted people may be less conscious of the process of encoding (i.e, unthinking) than careful, “slow-talkers.”
  3. The sender transmits the message.  Medium influences the message by
    1. how it emphasizes parts of it (by structure, layout, omissions)
    2. how it fits expectations of the receiver (visually, nonverbally)
    3. how it conforms to accepted standards
    4. whether the environment allows for multiple messages/channels at the same time (distractions, additions)
  4. Receiver gets the message.
    1. Maybe.  Listening and reading ability may be less than ideal.
    2. Maybe.  They just don’t receive it or don’t (choose not to) perceive it.
    3. Noise.  These are various obstacles to message transmission.
                                          i.    Internal – physiological and psychological
                                        ii.    External, environmental
                                       iii.    Semantic
                                       iv.    Cultural
  1. Receiver decodes the message.. Even under ideal circumstances, each person’s frame of reference, personal limitations, egocentricism and ethnocentrism affect decoding.  The receiver is likely to eliminate parts due to his/her “gaps” and limitations  and add parts due to the evoking of certain (relevant or irrelevant) experiences.  Receiving correctly may mean the main information is received accurately, but not 100% correctly.  Metamessages always accompany a message because every communication event has a content and relationship dimension.
  2. Receiver sends feedback, which also must be received for the loop to be completed and for there to be sharing, initiating another cycle.  Feedback may be verbal, nonverbal, formal, informal, immediate, or long-term. 

Specialists in communication are unlikely to define communication simply as the sending and receiving of messages.  That is considered a linear model of communication.  An interactive model recognizes that communication depends on feedback, but it tends to treat the process of communication like Instant Messaging.  Person A speaks; then Person B speaks in response; then Person A again, etc. Our view of the communication process is the transactional, systems model, which I considered more complete.  This view of communication stresses that it is ongoing and dynamic, that people are senders and receivers at the same time, that messages are complex mixtures of context, language, nonverbal cues, and history that reflect objective content and subjective interpretations (metamessages).

This is not to define communication so broadly as to define it out of being understood.  It can be understood and thus, most importantly, controlled, and it is best to study it in specific channels (media—written, oral, electronic), contexts (family, business, cross-culturally), or by types of noise.

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