Communication is a dynamic process involving a series of actions and reactions with a view to achieving a goal. How does it work? Think that you are in conversation with your friend. You are a sender or communicator, formulate (encode) an idea or message as best as you can, and pass on the message to your friend, who to the best of his ability receives or acts on the message (decode). He responds by formulating his own message and communicates to you (feedback) . If you think your message is understood or well received by your friend, then you go ahead with the next idea that you have in mind and the conversation goes on and on. Communication is, therefore, a two way process, that is, the ability to receive is as important as the ability to send. For successful communication, feedback is crucial because it tells how your message is being interpreted. It can make or break the communication process.
In the above diagram, the communicator is the encoder, the message is symbol (verbal or non-verbal), the channel is one of the transmission medium, the receiver is the decoder, feedback is the response to the message, and noise is any interruption that breaks down the communication.
These, in fact, are the essential elements or ingredients, which facilitate the communication process. Each element plays an important role in making the communication effective:
Communicator (sender or encoder) is the one who initiates the communication process. He may be an editor, a reporter, a filmmaker, a teacher, a writer, a speaker, a leader or anybody who takes the initiative to start a dialogue. Before one speaks or writes, the message is conceptualized first and then encoded. An effective communication depends on the communication skill, knowledge level, and attitude of the communicator and how he desires to affect his receiver. An ability to think, to organize thoughts quickly and express himself effectively are some of the attributes of a good communicator. Somebody who uses appropriate words, sentences, tone, etc. may be called a good communicator. He does not fumble, does not look for words and all that he says is accompanied by appropriate gestures and delivered at an acceptable pace. Another element, which is mentioned here, is knowledge level. We must be able to find out the knowledge level of the persons on a particular topic before we start the dialogue. Also, a person must never look down upon the people with whom he communicates. He must never think that the receivers are inferior to him. The attitudes of a person should be mature and the minimum respect due to the other person must be extended to him.
Encoding is the formulation of messages in the communicator’s mind, that is, the communicator not only translates his purpose (ideas, thoughts or information) into a message but also decides on the medium to communicate his planned message. He must choose the media (speaking, writing, signaling or gesturing) that the receiver can comprehend well. For instance, an illiterate receiver will fail to understand a written message, but can understand it well if told orally. A message is what a communicator actually produces for transmission using spoken or written words, photographs, paintings, films, posters, etc. a great deal of skill and effort is required to formulate a message, the meaning of which should be understandable to the receiver. Actually the purpose of communication is to influence the receiver and get favorable responses so that appropriate decisions can be taken. The success of communication, therefore, depends on what we say and how we say it. A message can enhance or distort effective communication. For instance, in an interview your intention is to impress interviewer, but if you give answers whose meaning is not clear, the interviewer may perceive that you are incompetent for the job.
A channel is the vehicle through which a message is carried from the communicator to the receiver. The channels of communication are many-written, spoken, verbal, non-verbal, mass media like TV, radio, newspapers, books, etc. choosing the appropriate channel, one most suitable for the message as well as the receiver, is a complicated task. Success and failure of communication depends on the selection of the right channel. For example, if you have prepared a campaign on ‘National Integration’ what media would you choose to reach the intended audience? And even after selecting the media you have to decide if it is feasible cost wise, taking into account the number of people and the kind of people who will be exposed to your message, and certain other factors. Actually your intention or desire would be to reach out to the maximum number of people but for efficient communication your attempt should be to minimize time and cost in the total information exchange effort.
The receiver, at the other end of the communication, is the recipient of the message and must possess the same orientation as the communicator. If the receiver does not have the ability to listen, to read, to think, he will not be able to receive and decode the messages in the manner the communicator want him to. For effective communication, the receiver is the most important link in the communication process.
Decoding is the interpretation of the message by the receiver. Actually, the receiver looks for the meaning in the message, which is common to both the receiver and the communicator.
Feedback is the response or acknowledgement of receiver to the communicator’s message. The exchange is possible only if the receiver responds. Even through fluttering eyelids, raising an eyebrow, making a face, organizing a point and asking for explanation, the message is shaped and reshaped by the communicator and the receiver until the meaning becomes clear. In this way both participants in communication interact and constantly exchange roles. In face-to-face communication the receiver responds naturally, directly and immediately. This provides the communicator an opportunity to improve and make his communication effective. Feedback, thus, provides an opportunity to evaluate what is right or wrong about a particular communication. It helps to regulate the conversation among two or more individuals and also stimulates and reinforces an idea that is desired to be communicated.
Noise is an interruption that can creep in at any point of the communication process and make it ineffective. Environment is one major cause that interferes with message reception: like noises from the roadside, constant chattering of individuals outside the communication act, blaring loudspeaker, faulty transmission, etc. noise can occur in other forms also; poor handwriting, heavy accent or soft speech, communication in a poorly lit room, etc. in fact, these are barriers to effective communication. For smooth and effective communication, it is necessary to eliminate or reduce noise as far as possible.