Communication is a complex process affected by many variables while taking on many forms and styles. It is important to understand all elements of the communication process to communicate effectively. Developing and refining interpersonal skills by practising effective communication is beneficial to everyone in both their personal and professional relationships. Effective communication is complicated, information is sometimes lost due to mixed messages, ‘noise’ or behaviours. Additionally, poor listening skills, language and culture can also create barriers that undermine the communication process. The following paper will discuss communication, including verbal and non-verbal types of exchange along with key terms, successful strategies and common failures in light of current theory.
Communication is the flow and exchange of ideas and information from one person to another; it involves transmitting a feeling, idea or information from a sender to a receiver (Clark,1997). Interpersonal communication requires at least two people with person fulfilling the role of both source and receiver (DeVito, 2009). The source has a message to transmit, and this message has a purpose (DeVito, 2009). The source will then encode his or her message with the words, behaviour and body language that he or she feels will help best transmit this message according to his or her purpose (DeVito, 2009). The message will be transmitted through a channel or method of communication such as face to face or telephone conversation, letter, recording or email (DeVito, 2009). The receiver is the recipient of the transmission and will decode the message using language skills as well as cultural and situational context (Lizotte, 2008). The message received may or may not fulfil the source’s intended purpose (Lizotte, 2008). Feedback is a fundamental element in the communication process (Lizotte, 2008). These are messages the receiver sends in return to help understand the idea, feeling or information exactly as the source intended (Lizotte, 2008).
Both content and context are essential components of any message being transmitted by a source during communication (Clark, 1997). Content, also known as language, refers to the precise words or characters used to form a message (Clark, 1997). Problems with content can lead to breakdowns in communication in a number of ways. For example, the source may make grammatical or semantic errors that make the message unclear (Clark, 1997). Messages may also be misunderstood because words can be interpreted differently and may even have multiple meanings (Clark, 1997). Context, also called paralanguage, on the other hand, refers to the way a message is conveyed. Facial expressions, hand gestures and other body language, as well as tone and pitch of voice are non-verbal elements of speech which contribute strongly to the meaning of a message (Clark, 1997). Messages are often misunderstood due to context as people generally put more importance on what they see rather than what is really being said (Clark, 1997) . “Nothing is so simple that it cannot be misunderstood” (Teague, Jr). Anything that interferes with the intent of a message being understood is considered a barrier to communication (DeVito, 2009). These barriers exist in both psychological and physical forms (DeVito, 2009). The ‘language barrier’ is an obvious yet valid case in point. If English is not a person’s first language, he or she might then find it difficult to grasp certain nuances or inflection, this in turn hinders the natural flow of communication (DeVito, 2009). Likewise, stereotypes, ignorance or bias towards cultural backgrounds, beliefs and values can prove problematic (DeVito, 2009). Body language and behaviours such as hand gestures that are appropriate in one culture may have a very different meaning in an other and could be found offensive (DeVito, 2009). DeVito (2009) states...
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