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Communication is essential for normal relationship, meaningful interaction and successful dealings among people of the world. So important is the ability to communicate that the man who is a master over the art of effective communication enjoys a great advantage in the competitive world over the other man who has not learnt to communicate effectively.
Communication as a human activity dates as far back as the time when the first two human beings appeared on earth.
Speech, signs, body gestures and facial expressions have been used as means of communications from the beginning. As the human society progresses up the ladder of modernization, the volume of communicated messages grow in complexity and the means or channels of communication grow in sophistication.
Communication is, today, a very important field of the social sciences. The processes, tools and media of communication are as vast as there are human actions.
Last Updated - 6th November 2005
What is Communication?
Communication simply refers to the sharing of thoughts, feelings, wishes or information between two or more people, using sounds, signs or symbols. It includes the procedures whereby one mind may affect another.
Communication is a process of information exchange between a source and destination, through a channel or medium. It is the process through which we impact or transmit message from one party to the other.
Forms of Communication
Communication may take two forms: verbal communication and non-verbal communication.
- Verbal Communication - Verbal communication refers to the message or information transmission by words of mouth. Verbal communication could be: face to face, through phone, radio, television, film, computer/Internet.
- Face-to-face verbal communication. - This involves two or more people talking together, face to face.
- Out-of-sight verbal communication - Verbal communication can take place between two or more people who cannot see each other. Two People separated by a wooded piece of land can can talk to each other, though they hidden by woods from each other.
- Phone verbal communication - Two people can talk together on the phone. The invention of mobile and cell phones now makes it possible for most people from all parts of the world to talk with one another.
- Radio,television and film - In this case, an individual, or a group of people, talk for the other to hear only. The hearers can only respond through other means of communication, such as phone and letter.
- Computer and Internet - A spoken message recorded on CD can be listened to on another computer. This makes it possible for a far larger number of people from one part of the world to hear a message recorded by someone at another part of the world than the number of people who can hear the speaker in person. Response can only be through one of the other many means of communications. A user of a computer connected to the Internet can communicate verbally with another person whose computer is connected to the Internet.
- Non-Verbal Communications
Non-verbal communications refer to message or information transmitted and received with no word spoken. It includes writing, signs and symbols, etc.
- Writing - Anything that is put on paper, board or banner, in any form, to be read by other people is written communication. Written communication lacks the advantage verbal communication has. These disadvantages are:
- It is less personal in nature
- It often requires more time to write down a particular message than it requires to speak it
- It requires some level of education to write and understand written messages. A person who has not learnt to read and write cannot, for example, pick up his pen and dash a note to a friend. If he receives a letter, he has to secure the service of someone else to read it for him. A process that not only wastes time but deny him the benefit of privacy.
- A message communicated in writing cannot be immediately changed and so cannot be easily forgotten or overlooked like casual and careless verbal speeches. The advantages of written communication over spoken communications are:
- It is more useful than spoken communications when information has to do with many people and when the issues to be dealt with are complex and very important.
- It is useful when the matter at hand has a long-term significance and there is need to maintain consistency
- It enables easy preservation of communicated messages over a long period of time.
- Signs and symbols - Long before the art of writing was invented, the people of the world learnt to communicate by signs and symbols. Nearly every communities of the world made use of fire and smoke to communicate with other communities, as SOS, signal to take an action or warning of some dangers.
- Even in our days of sophisticated communication tools and media, signs and symbols are still well used. The major way, for example, through which the deaf and dumb can be communicated with, is through signs.
- Facial expressions - winking, frowning, grimacing - and body gestures still remain the commonest method of daily communication. By nodding, one may greet another person or express consent of a statement. When a traffic police raises his hand, a driver stops; when he waves, the driver moves on.
- Drums have been used by people as a means of communication. Before the invention of telephone and radio, drums were widely used to transmit orders on the battlefields, to summon people to meetings, to announce important messages, etc. The talking drum of the Yoruba tribe of Africa, for example, is good at transmitting understandable messages to dancers. It can beat out expressions that can be understood by the hearer.
- Messages can be communicated by whistles, gongs, trumpets and burgles. The British Rifles and the Light Infantry adopted the stringed burgle horn during the American War of Independence. They found the drum too cumbersome when it came to transmitting orders in the forests. They had noted the Swiss and German troops of the Jaeger Battalions carried the horn. Burgle was still used by the Light and Rifle Regiment during the Second World War.
- Road signs, trade marks, traffic lights etc. are symbols, which communicate specific messages.
Components of Communication
- Most communication models have certain common elements. These components are: The message, the sender, the channel, the receiver and noise factor.
- The Message is the thought, idea, feeling, information or wish being shared. It is what the receiver will receive. To be understood, the message must be in the language and code the receiver can understand. For communication to be effective, the message must be clearly constructed, satisfactorily sent and normally received in understandable form.
- The sender is the person who constructs and sends the message. He performs three major functions: formulation, encoding, and transmitting the message. He uses the channel that is most suitable and readily available at the time.
- The channel is the means through which the message is being transmitted. For the message to reach the receiver in an understandable manner, the channel must not be faulty.
- The receiver is the person with whom the message is being shared. To understand the message, he must have the key to the language and coding system used by the sender in the construction of the message.
Barriers to Effective Communication
- Language Barrier - Language is the common means of communicating verbally or in writing. For communication to be effective, it must be in language and terms the receiver recognizes and understands.
- Coding Barrier - Code is a system of secret words, letters, symbols, numbers, etc., used instead of ordinary writing. Every profession, for example, has its own meanings for words. For example, when a writer/editor wants a word, or group of words, that have been crossed in error to remain, he puts the symbol stet at the margin and put several dots under the word or words. When the typesetter sees the letters stet he knows he is being told to retain the crossed-out words. You need to be a medical personnel to understand a prescription written by a doctor because of the medical symbols used. For communication to take place between two people, each of them must have the key to the code used.
- Physical Barriers - These are the things which minimize the opportunities that exist for communication to occur, the environmental factors that may inhibit the process of effective communication. These include noisy environment, such as market places, busy streets and stadiums during sporting events; faulty communicating equipment; attention-distracting actions or situations.
- Psychological Barriers - These are the various factors that may affect the state or the readiness of the individual to receive a message, like:
- When the mind is not ready to learn. A person who is suffering from hunger or sickness, or is grieving the loss of a dear one will be less ready to receive a message
When there is a kind of complex or syndrome between the sender and the receiver, such as pride on the part of the sender, the message will be less acceptable to the receiver
When there is a personal prejudice between a sender and a receiver, which may cause one to be unable or unwilling to understand the other and/or appreciate the others view.
How to Communicate Effectively
- Have a clear concept of what you want to say; otherwise you will confuse the receiver of your message when you say it. Muddle-headedness and lack of clear thinking is often the cause of ambiguity and confused message.
- Speak or write within the level of your audience or reader (receiver). Dont make the mistake of wanting to impress your audience with big, unfamiliar words. Your desire to be praised for your wide vocabulary and large store of heavy, Latinate words will cost you the privilege of making yourself understood.
- Modify the process of communication so that the noise factor can be taken care of.
- Reduce, as much as it is within your ability, activities and other factors that may distract the attention of your message receiver.
- Avoid speaking in a way that will make your hearer or audience feel that you are looking down on him.
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