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The Process of Communication
Home Up Speaking to Inform Communication Affects on Life The Process of Communication Listening One-to-One Communication Group Discussions Building Confidence Preparing Your Speech Delivering Your Speech


Lesson Objectives:

  • Explain the basic elements of the communication process.
  • Describe the two functions of memory and the role of thinking in the communication process.
  • State how the importance of shared interests relates to the communication process.
  • Explain the nature of nonverbal communication and define the general categories of nonverbal symbols.

Overview of the Communication Process

Communication is the process we humans use to achieve understanding.  When you want others to understand what is in your mind, you choose "words" to form your message to your intended receiver.  The receiver must "read" the message as it comes in if he or she is to understand the ideas you are trying to get across.  Then the receiver reacts to your ideas, which is called feedback.

** Memory is considered the brain's storage bin, for later use in communicating.
** In addition to storing information and experiences, your brain also stores the words needed to express these ideas. 
** Words are symbols that stand for ideas or experiences.

Reasoning is the ability to put two or more ideas together and produce a new idea.
Humans have a highly developed reasoning.

Needing to Communicate
Humans need to communicate because we are social creatures by nature.  There is a certain need to communicate.

Choosing Symbols
Once you have decided to communicate with someone, your next step is to use symbols to encode your ideas.  You must then transfer ideas into a symbol system, or code known to both you and your receiver, and then hope that the receiver will decode, or translate the symbols correctly.

You use symbols for a variety of purposes.  A symbol can be a word, gesture, eye contact, dress, or anything that stands for an idea and is used to communicate.

Language Symbols
Words are language symbols.  They are also called verbal symbols.  Language is a medium of exchange for ideas.

Nonverbal Symbols
These include all the ways you encode your ideas without words.  You can smile, nod, or tap your feet.  One nonverbal symbol is kinesics, which is the use of body motions to communicate.  Examples of kinesics is rolling one's eyes, frowning, staring, laughing, gesturing, crossing one's legs, or any similar body movement.
Proxemics is another nonverbal symbol.  Proxemics is the study of spatial communication to communicate.  An example would be good friends sitting or standing closer to each other rather than a new acquaintance.

Paralanguage is another category of nonverbal communication.  It consists of the ways in which you says words.  This includes volume, pitch, speaking rate, and voice quality.

** Volume indicates how loudly or softly you are speaking.
** Pitch is how high or low the sounds of your voice are.
** Speaking rate is how fast or slow you are speaking.
** Voice quality is what makes people able to recognize your voice alone.

The signals that a receiver continuously gives to a sender indicating how well the message is being received are known as feedback.  Feedback is extremely important for senders, since it allows them to discover such matters as whether they are speaking too fast, using words that are too complex, or even whether they are offending or angering their receivers.

 Feedback can consist of words, nonverbal symbols, or both.  Feedback makes it possible for speakers to judge how well they are communicating.  For example, in a face-to-face conversation, interviews, and small group discussion, a good balance of verbal and nonverbal feedback is possible.

Talking on the phone consists of verbal feedback.  In public speaking, the form of feedback is usually nonverbal.  This is because, if a large number of audience members begin responding aloud, it would soon be impossible to hear the speaker.  Most audience speakers confine their feedback to kinesic symbols--smiles, frowns, and nods of their heads.  Some paralanguage symbols such as yawning, occasional boos, or hisses and clapping may also be used as feedback.