Communication in its simplest sense involve two or more persons who come together to share, to dialogue and to commune, or just to be together for a festival or family gathering. Dreaming, talking with someone, arguing in a discussion, speaking in public, reading a newspaper, watching TV etc. are all different kinds of communication that we are engaged in every day. Communication is thus not so much an act or even a process but rather social and cultural ‘togetherness’. Communication can be with oneself, god, and nature and with the people in our environment. Interaction, interchange, transaction, dialogue, sharing, communion, and commonness are ideas that crop up in any attempt to define the term communication.
Communication is important both for an individual and also for the society. A person’s need for communication is as strong and as basic as the need to eat, sleep, and love. Communication is the requirement of social existence and a resource in order to engage in the sharing of experiences, through ‘symbol mediated interaction’. Isolation is in fact the severest punishment for human being. Grown-ups, children, and old people all need to communicate. Society punishes criminals by locking them up in solitary cells, thus starving them of the basic need, and indeed the fundamental right to communicate. Communication thus involves active interaction with our environments -physical, biological and social. Deprived of this interaction we would not be aware of whether we are safe or in danger, whether hated or loved, or satisfied or hungry. However, most of us take this interaction and this relationship for granted, unless we experience some deprivation of it. When that happens we adapt ourselves to the environment so that we do not lose touch, in both the literal and figurative senses. For, to lose touch is to suffer isolation.
The basic human need for communication can perhaps be traced to the process of mankind’s evolution from lower species. Animals, for instance, have to be in sensory communication with their physical and biological surroundings to find food, protect themselves and reproduce their species. A loss of sensation-the inability to hear a predator for instance can mean loss of life. Thus, it is said that the biology of human beings and other living organisms is such that they have to depend upon each other. This dependence give rise to a situation where it is the biological necessity for the human beings to live in groups. Society is therefore, the outcome of the evolution of the human race and man is a social animal not by option but by compulsion.
Essentially, the primary function of communication is to inform, educate, entertain and persuade people. Following are the basic functions of communication:
- Education and Instruction- This function of education starts early in life, at home and in school and continues throughout life. Communication provides knowledge, expertise, and skills for smooth functioning by people in the society. It creates awareness and gives opportunity to people to actively participate in public life.
- Information- quality of our life will be poor without information. The more informed we are the more powerful we become. Communication provides information about our surroundings. Information regarding wars, danger, crisis, famine, etc. are important for the safety and well being of our life.
- Entertainment- To break the routine life and divert our attention from the stressful life we lead today, entertainment is an essential part of everybody’s life. Communication provide endless entertainment to people through films, television, radio, drama, music, literature, comedy, games, etc.
- Discussion- debates and discussions clarify different viewpoints on issues of interest to the people. Through communication, we find out reasons for varying viewpoints and impart new ideas to others.
- Persuasion- it helps in reaching for a decision on public policy so that it is helpful to govern the people. Though it is possible, that one can resort to persuasion for a bad motive. Thus, the receiver must be careful about the source of persuasion.
- Cultural promotion- communication provides an opportunity for the promotion and preservation of culture and traditions. It makes the people fulfill their creative urges.
- Integration-it is through communication that a large number of people across countries come to know about each other’s traditions and appreciate each other’s ways of life. It develops integration and tolerance towards each other.