Think back to the last time you had a miscommunication with someone. Maybe a friend misinterpreted the tone of your chat message. Maybe an email you sent wound up in a spam filter and so it wasn’t even seen. Maybe you tried to argue your position but couldn’t think of the right evidence.
Every day, you communicate in thousands of ways: some successful, some less so. There are many current models and theories that help us to plan successful communication and explain why some communication decisions work better than others. In the workplace, we might be more concerned about practical knowledge and skills than theory. However, understanding communication models allows you to make better decisions, which allow you to be a more successful communicator.
The word communication is derived from a Latin word meaning “to share.” Communication can be defined as “purposefully and actively exchanging information between two or more people to convey or receive the intended meanings through a shared system of signs and (symbols)” (“Communication,” 2015, para. 1).
Let us break this definition down with an example. Imagine you are in a coffee shop with a friend, and they are telling you a story about a cricket match they won over the weekend. What images come to mind as you hear their story? Is your friend using words you understand to describe the situation? Are they speaking in long, complicated sentences or short, descriptive sentences? Are they leaning back in their chair and speaking calmly, or can you tell they are excited? Are they using words to describe how the match played out, or did they draw a diagram on a napkin? Did your friend pause and wait for you to to comment throughout their story or just blast right through? Did you have trouble hearing your friend at any point in the story because other people were talking or because the milk steamer in the coffee shop was whistling?
All of these questions directly relate to the considerations for communication in this course, including analyzing the audience, choosing a communications medium, using plain language, and using visual aids.
Before we examine each of these considerations in more detail, we should explore the elements of the communication process.