Understanding Communications

What is communication

Defining Communication

Defining in a broad sense, the situation involving response to a stimulus is communication situations.

The central core of the discipline is that communication has its central interest in those behavioural situations in which a source transmits a message to a receiver(s) with conscious intent to affect the latter’s behaviour.

Communication is social interaction through symbols and message systems.

The problems to be solved require an understanding of:

  1. The types of message systems that are produced under different cultural, institutional, and technological conditions.
  2. The ways in which the composition of message systems tend to structure and weight issues; and
  3. The ways in which information is processed, transmitted, and integrated into a framework of knowledge.

The Act of Communication

The most convenient way to describe an act of communication is to answer the following questions:

The Function of Communication

The communication process in society performs three functions:

  1. Surveillance of the environment, disclosing threats and opportunities affecting the value positions of the community and the components parts within it;
  2. Correlations of the components of society as they make a response to the environment.
  3. Transmission of social inheritance.

In gauging the efficiency of communication in any given context, it is necessary to take into account the values at stake, and the identity to the group whose position is being examined.

Process of Communication

Three theoretical perspectives guide the study of communication:

The Technical Perspective

The technical view of communication is associated with Information Theory and usually traced back to Claude E., Shannon and Warren Weaver (1949). Shannon, portrayed communication as a mechanical system, as shown in the figure.

The important question in information theory is how can an information source get a message to a destination with a minimum of dissertations and errors?

White and Chapman (1996:11) introduced into the technical communication system both human (the person’s horizon of experience, thoughts/feelings, the act of encoding/decoding) and interpersonal feedback elements.

Since then, an array of human filters that are influenced by the person’ horizon of experience (such as motive, affect, attention, knowledge, attitudes, values, and beliefs) have been specified.

Although the social context affects these human filters, the larger social context is not directly addressed in these approaches.

The Contextual Perspective

The contextual approach to communication focuses not just on content (e.g. the accurate exchange of information or adequacy of conveying the intended meaning) but on the larger context of communication.

It focuses on nonverbal cues as well as verbal content. It also looks at the relational context between the sender and receiver within the larger social/organisational/cultural context. It sees words as symbols interpreted in context.

Mead (1934) and Blume (1972) stressed communication as symbolic interaction that created meaning the one’s sense of both self and society.

The Negotiated Perspective

Lazega (1992) goes beyond the contextual to the negotiated view of communication and meaning.

Rather than examining how discourse helps create, maintain, and give meaning to social relations, he examined how the communication context itself is negotiated, for example, how judgements of appropriateness and knowledge claims come to be constructed.

In this sense, he elaborates the interactive feedback component of the technical approach. Feedback exchanges can be viewed as a process of interpersonal negotiation.

Elements of Communication  

There are 7 major elements of the communication process. these are:

  1. Sender: The person who intends to convey the message to pass information and ideas to the others is known as sender or communicator.
  2. Message: The subject matter of the communication. this may be an opinion, attitude, feelings, views, orders, or suggestions.
  3. Encoding: since the subject matter of communication is theoretical and intangible, it further passing required use of certain symbols such as words, actions or pictures etc. Conversion of subject matter into these symbols is the process of encoding.
  4. Communication Channel: the person who is interested in communicating has to choose the channel for sending the required information, ideas etc. this information is transmitted to the receiver through certain channels which may be either formal or informal.  
  5. Receiver: Receiver is the person who receives the message or for t=whom the message is meant for. It is the receiver who tries to understand the message in the best possible manner in achieving desired objectives.
  6. Decoder: The person who receives the message or symbols from the communicators tries to convert the same in such a way so that he may extract its meaning to his complete understanding.
  7. Feedback: Feedback is the process of ensuring that the receiver has received the message and understood in the same sense as sender meant it.

Need for Communication

Communication is fundamental to the existence and survival of humans or organisations. It is a process of creating and sharing ideas, information, views, facts, feelings, etc. among people to reach a common understanding.

Communication may be interpersonal, intrapersonal, interdepartmental, intra-organisational, written or oral, formal, informal, upward, downward, horizontal or diagonal.

Importance of Communication in an Organisation

  1. Communication is the Basis of Decision-Making – Proper communication provides information to the manager that is useful for decision-making. No decisions can be taken in the absence of information. Thus, communication is the basis for making the right decisions.
  2. Communication is the Basis of Coordination – The manager explains to the employees the organisational goals, modes of their achievement and also the interpersonal relations amongst them. this provides coordination between various employees and also departments. Thus, communication act as a basis for coordination in the organisation.
  3. Communication ensures smooth functioning – A manager coordinates the human and physical elements of an organisation to run it smoothly and efficiently. This coordination is not possible without proper communication.
  4. Communication Increases Cooperation – Two-way communication process promotes cooperation and mutual understanding amongst workers and also between them and the management.
  5. Communication Motivated Employees – Good communication helps the workers to adjust to the physical and social aspect of work. It also improves a good physical and social aspect of work. It also improves good human relations in the industry. An efficient system of communication enables the management to motivate, influence and satisfy the subordinates which in turn boosts their morale and keeps them motivated.
  6. Communication increases managerial efficiency: The manager conveys the targets and issues instructions and allocates jobs to the subordinates. All of these aspects involve communication. thus, communication is essential for the quick and effective performance of the managers and the entire organisation.

Types of Communication

Formal Communication

Communication which flows through the official channels designed in an organisational chart. It may take place between a superior and a subordinate, a subordinate and a superior or among the same cadre employees or managers. These communications can be oral or in writing and are generally recorded and filed.

Formal communication may be further classified as Vertical Communication and Horizontal Communication.

Vertical Communication – As the name suggests, vertical communication flows vertically upwards or downwards through formal channels. Upward communication refers to the flow of communication from a subordinate to a superior whereas downward communication flows from a superior to a subordinate.

Example: Applications for the grant of sick leave, submission of progress report etc. are some of the examples of upward communication.

Sending an office order to employees for a meeting, delegating work to subordinates, informing them about the company policies, etc. are some examples of downward communication.

Horizontal Communication: Horizontal or lateral communication takes place between one division and another. For example, a production manager may contract the finance manager to discuss the delivery of raw material or its purchase.

Types of communication networks in Formal Communication:

Chain: In this type of network communications flows from every superior to his subordinate through a single chain.

Wheel: In this network, all subordinates under one superior communicate through him only. They are not allowed to talk among themselves.

Circular: In this type of network, the communication moves in a circle. Each person is able to communicate with his adjoining two persons only.

Free flow: In this network, each person can communicate with any other person freely. There is no restriction.  

Inverted V: In this type of network, a subordinate is allowed to communicate with his immediate superior as well as to his superior’s superior. However, in the latter case, only ordained communication takes place.

Informal Communication

Any communication that takes place without following the formal channels of communication is said to be informal communication. Informal communicating is often referred to as grapevine as it spreads throughout the organisation and in all directions without any regard to the levels of authority.  

Informal communication spreads rapidly, often get distorted and it is very difficult to detect the source of such communication. it also leads to rumours which are not true. People’s behaviour is often affected by the rumours and informal discussions which sometimes may hamper the work environment.

However, sometimes these channels may be helpful as they carry information rapidly and, therefore, may be useful to the manager to transmit information to know the reactions of his/her subordinates.

Types of Grapevine Network

Single Strand: in this network, each person communicates with the other in a sequence.

Gossip Network: In this type of network, each person communicates with all other persons on a non-selective basis.

Probability Network: in this network, the individual communicates randomly with other individuals.

Cluster Network: In this network, the individual communicates with only those people whom she trusts. Out of these four types of networks, cluster network is the most popular in organisations.

Barriers of Communication

Communication barriers may prevent communication or carry an incorrect meaning due to which misunderstandings may occur.

Therefore, a communicator needs to identify such barriers and take appropriate measures to overcome them.

Barriers to communications can be:

Semantic Barriers

These are concerned with the problems and obstruction in the process of encoding and decoding of a message into words or impressions. Normally, such barriers result due to use of wrong words, mismatched language skills, faulty translations, different interpretations, etc.

Psychological Barriers

Emotional or psychological factors also act as barriers to communication. the state of mind of both sender and receiver of communication reflects ineffective communication. at the time of communication, both the sender and the receiver need to be psychological sound. Also, thy should trust each other, if they do not believe each other, they cannot understand each other’s message in its original sense.

Organisational Barriers

Factors related to organisational structure, rules and regulations authority relationships, etc., may sometimes act as barriers to effective communication. In an organisation with a highly centralised pattern, people may not be encouraged to have free communication. Also, rigid rules and regulations and cumbersome procedures may become a hurdle to communication.

Personal Barriers

Personal factors of both the sender and the receiver may act as a barrier to effective communication. if a superior think that a particular communication may adversely affect his authority, he may suppress such communication. Also, if the superiors do not have confidence in the competency of their subordinates, they may not ask for their junior’s advice. Subordinates may not be willing to offer useful suggestions in the absence of any reward or appreciation for a good suggestion.


The most important aspect of communication is to understand that everybody has a different way to make sense of the world. It is, therefore, important to become a good listener to understand the other person and be able to express and communicate your intentions effectively.

By Anshika Awasthi

Competitive, real; loves to keep working for what it wants. An extrovert who lives by her own ideas and methods.

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