What is Communication?

What is Communication?

Over 70% of our time is spent communicating with others, and that’s the one interaction every person must do. Everyone must communicate their needs and ideas. Every organization must communicate its products and services. Unfortunately, many people have trouble in this area. Some don’t have the professional impact they need to get ahead in today’s corporate world.

What is Communicaition?

The word communication has been derived from the Latin word ‘communis’, which means ‘common’. It tells us that communication is something involving common things between or among people.

What is that common thing? It is the meaning of words, ideas, information, facts, or anything that has a bearing on the well-being of humans in society. People want to establish a ‘common platform’ of understanding upon which they can act together or live together. Communication does it as a media of uniform bondage.

There is general agreement about the necessity of effective communication, yet there is less agreement on an exact definition. Chester I. Barnard was the first among the leading authorities to give serious thought to communication.

Other experts have contributed a lot to the science of communication. There are variations among their presented concepts of communication, but there exists a common thread among them too.

All of them have emphasized the exchange of thoughts between human beings. O.W. Baskin and Craig E. Aronôff define, ” Communication is the exchange of messages between people for the purpose of achieving common meanings”.

Heinz Weihrich and Harold Koontz (19994) define communication as “Communication is the transfer of information from a sender to a receiver,.with the information being understood by the receiver.”

Betty R. Ricks and Kay F. Gow say, “Communication is the exchange of information that is mutually understood”.

The American Society of Training Directors defines, “Communication is the interchange of thought or information to bring about mutual understanding and confidence or good human relations.”

All the definitions of communication have emphasized the exchange of mutual meaning of information between people engaged in communicating.

It intends to achieve the mutuality of meaning of the information, thoughts, ideas, etc., to establish a common base of understanding between and among people.

This is the great virtue of communication. Society and civilization are developed through this binding contribution of communication. Organizations are built on this inherent quality of communication.

Communication, thus, involves the exchange of mutually understood meanings of messages between people. It is a systematic and continuous process of telling, listening, and understanding that occurs regularly everywhere in society.

Communication is the bridge of meaning between thoughts that tie people in the organization and in society. The concerted efforts of the people are made possible by the communication. It is a two-way process that binds people together.

The process of exchanging information and meaning between or among persons is made through a common system of symbols, signs, and behavior. The communication is completed when these are understood by both parties on the two sides in the same meaning and connotation.

Therefore, Communication is the process of exchanging mutually understood meanings of information, ideas or thoughts between people to attain a given purpose.

The Comprehensive Nature of Communication: Beyond Words

Communication is just as important as what we say because people judge us, our companies, our products, our services, and our professionalism by the way we write, act, dress, talk, and manage our responsibilities. In short, how well we communicate with others.

The Art of Effective Communication in Personal Success

Successful people know how to communicate for results. They know how to say what they mean and get what they want without hurting the people they deal with.

Understanding Individual Communication Styles in Daily Interactions

You deal daily with peers, outside groups, customers, employees, and managers, and you must have a good communication style. When we ask people how well they communicate, their answers usually fall into one of three categories.

First and most prevalent is the person who responds, “I communicate perfectly. I spell everything out, so there’s nothing left to doubt.” Another will react with surprise and ask me, “What do you mean ‘how well?’ I don’t think about communicating; I just do it.” The third type will reflect on the question thoughtfully before saying something like, “How can one ever know how well they get their ideas across to another person? All I can tell you is that I work more hours trying to communicate than I can count, and it still doesn’t work some of the time.” Each answer, in its own way, is correct.

The Dichotomy of Communication: A Discipline and Liberation

Communicating today is both a discipline and liberation.

The Flexibility and Paradoxes of Language

Our language is flexible; one size fits all. It’s a language in which ravel and unravel mean the same thing; flammable and inflammable mean the same thing; fat chance, slim chance, and no chance at all mean the same thing.

Communication: The Science and Emotion Behind It

Communication is both a science and a feeling; it’s often a cinch and often an impossibility.

Non-Verbal Cues: Moving Beyond Spoken Words

The smell of a woman’s perfume, the taste of semi-sweet chocolate, the sight of a blind person’s cane, the feel of the feverish brow of a sick child, the sound of the background music of a horror movie—all these move us to action or reaction.

These are all examples of effective communication, and none of them involve words.

The Risks and Uncertainties in Communication

Communication is full of risks; despite whatever precautions and plans we make, we can never really be sure of our success. No communication ever travels from sender to receiver in the same shape intended by the sender.

The Gap Between Intended and Perceived Messages

And, no matter how hard you try, the message will never be what you say—the message is always what they hear. But if you have a system to go by, you can at least reduce the risk and improve your chance of being effective.

The Essence of Effective Communication: A Two-Way Exchange

For communication to occur, there must be a two-way interchange of feelings, ideas, values, clarification of signals; and a fine-tuning of skills.

The Pivotal Role of Communication in Civilization and Society

Communication is the genesis of our civilization. It is the linking pin between people in society, and between societies around the globe.

It keeps people together and ties the countries of the world united. Communication is the only way people exchange views and opinions to build up friendship, solidarity, collaboration, association, mutuality, and social bonds that are the foundation of society and civilization.

The Indispensable Need for Communication in Organizational Structure

We cannot perceive the existence of people and society without communication. Without communication, there can be no organization, for there is no possibility, then, of the group influencing the behavior of the individual.

Communication has enabled us to organize and overcome such barriers, which could not have been possible to do individually. It contributes to our development as human beings and builds up the civilized society in which we all live. Its role is obvious to all of us. Therefore, communication is vital to our success and well-being in a civilized society.

Communication: A Daily Human Activity Across All Sectors

We spend more time communicating than doing anything else. We spend a large part of our day talking and listening. People at all levels and in all organizations—students, the president, managers, men and women in love, doctors and patients, parents and children, friends and enemies—have a common need—the need to communicate.

Building Interpersonal Relationships through Effective Communication

Management is getting things done by and through others. If this is true, then it is of much importance to build relationships with others. It is not possible to get things done with others without establishing interpersonal relationships.

The Significance of Communication in Management Functions

This is why communication is an important function of management. Communication applies to all phases of management. Management has an objective. Management unifies deliberate activity through communication. Without communication, there can be no organization.

A successful manager should have the ability to receive, analyze, and transmit information to motivate his subordinates in the right direction.

Thus, effective communication is a vital skill of management. Without question, communication is the vehicle through which the basic functions of management are carried out. Managers direct through communication; they coordinate through it; they staff, plan, and control through it.

Communication: A Prerequisite for Organizational Success

Virtually all actions taken in an organization have been preceded by communication. Thus, Bartol and Martin (1997) comment that communication is a critical part of every manager’s job; without effective communication, even the most brilliant strategies and best-laid plans may not be successful.

Fostering Workplace Harmony through Communication

The Hawthorne study reveals that workers’ understanding of each other would remove the major cause of industrial discontent. Communication is the only vehicle by which people can establish relationships and understand one another.

The Symbiosis of Knowledge and Communication for Managerial Success

Knowledge alone is not enough for managerial success; it requires knowledge plus the ability to communicate accurately. It is true that knowledge is power. It is more true that applied knowledge is power. And to apply it requires effective communication.

Executive Communication Time: Statistics and Implications

Lesikar and Pettit (1997) observe that typically, top executives spend from 75 to 95 percent of their time in communicating. One general estimation is that 40-60 percent of the work time spent in manufacturing plants typically involves some form of communication.

The Global Importance of Communication in Business

Globalization of business has enhanced the need for effective communication between individuals, teams, and organizations from around the world. It is a means by which behavior is modified, change is affected, information is made productive, and goals are achieved.

Theoretical Insights: How Communication Fosters Organizational Goals

Chester I. Bernard views communication is the means by which people are linked together in an organization to attain a common goal. They interact, acquaint, understand, and build mutual dependency among themselves through communication. They can be made compatible and supportive by this means to pursue jointly mutually determined goals.

Communication: The Underpinning of Coordination and Group Activity

Group activity is impossible without communication because coordination and change cannot be affected. The division of labor intended to exploit the benefit of job specialization cannot be executed without the skillful application of communication.

The need for coordination shall increase with the division of labor. Coordination takes place through communication.

Academic Observations on Communication and Group Dynamics

Weihrich and Koontz (2000) observed that group activity is impossible without communication because coordination and change cannot be affected.

Nature of Communication

Adjust the Climate

Whenever people get together to communicate with one another, two factors are always present. First, there is some sort of content to be covered—instructions, news, gossip, ideas, reports, evaluations, etc.

All of us are familiar with the content of the communication because it’s the most obvious factor and because we deal with it every day.

The second factor that is always present when people get together to communicate is the atmosphere or feeling that accompanies what you say. This is known as the communication climate.

The physical climate affects us in many ways. When it’s cold, we wear warm clothes. When it’s raining, we wear protective clothes.

And it’s not uncommon for weather conditions to affect our mood. Communication climates also affect us.

They can be either positive or negative. When the communication climate is positive, it’s easier for us to communicate, solve problems, reach decisions, and express thoughts and feelings.

In short, it makes working and dealing with other people more pleasant and productive. We’ve all been in restaurants, stores, offices, and homes where we felt comfortable and at ease. We usually want to go back to those places.

We’ve also been in homes, offices, and shops where the climate has been negative. In those instances, we were uncomfortable, uneasy, and less open.

We usually don’t enjoy attempting to communicate or do business in a negative climate. Are you making the climate negative for those you work with?

Choose Your Channel

Like a radio, human transmitters and receivers have channels. A communication channel is a medium through which information passes from sender to receiver: lectures, written messages, telephone conversations, face-to-face dialogue, and group meetings.

The choice of a channel may affect the quality of the communication and, in turn, the degree to which the receiver will respond to it. Therefore, you must decide which channel will be most effective in accomplishing your purpose.

Written communication should be used when communicating complex facts and figures or information, such as engineering, legal, or financial data, since communication breakdowns often result when complex material is presented orally.

Written communication is also the best channel when communicating with large numbers of people, when transmitting large amounts of data, or when you need a record of the communication.

The telephone is appropriate when communicating simple facts to a few people.

The phone also has more impact and a sense of urgency than written communication, but not as much as a meeting. To ensure that messages are understood on the phone, you may want to ask for feedback and check to make sure the communication link is complete.

Face-to-face communication has more urgency than meetings. It also has the advantage of speed, allows considerable two-way communication to take place, and usually elicits a quick response.

It’s usually best to use face-to-face dialogue when the interaction is personal—when giving praise, counseling, or taking disciplinary action.

Meetings are appropriate when there is a need for verbal interaction among members of a group.

Studies have revealed that supervisors spend more than half of their potential productive time in meetings, discussions, and conferences.

For this reason, it’s important to decide in advance whether a meeting will achieve the desired result.

Eliminate Static

Another helpful skill is the elimination of communication “static” or barriers.

If there’s too much static or noise, there’s a garbled message. The problem is that each of us has different barriers, and we don’t usually know what kind of noise the other person is hearing.

Sometimes we guess, and sometimes we guess wrong. The major barrier to communication is our natural tendency to judge, evaluate, approve, or disapprove of the other person’s statements.

Suppose the person next to you at lunch today says, “I like what Kay DuPont has to say.” What will you say? Your reply will probably be either approval or disapproval of the attitude expressed. You’ll either say, “I do, too!” or you’ll say, “I think she’s terrible.”

In other words, your first reaction will be to evaluate it from your point of view and approve or disapprove of what the other person said.

Although the tendency to make evaluations is common in almost all conversations, it is very much heightened in those situations where feelings and emotions are involved.

Tune in

One of the best ways to “tune in” to the other person is to find out how they process and store the information they receive. Studies of Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP) have proved that there are three sensory process types: Visual, Auditory, and Kinesthetic.

Some people are visually oriented. They remember and imagine things by what they look like. They store pictures. Some people are auditory—they store sounds. Some people are kinesthetic—they store touch sensations.

How can you figure out a person’s processing system? By listening. People tend to broadcast how they process information and how they file their data.

Visually oriented people say things like: “Here’s what it looks like to me. Do you see what I mean? Do you get the picture? I need a clearer vision of that. That’s not coming in clear to me.” All visually-oriented terms.

Auditory people remember and imagine things by what they sound like. They say: “Here’s what it sounds like to me. That rings a bell. Do you hear what I mean? We need to have more harmony in this office. We’re not in tune with this.”

Kinesthetic people remember and imagine things by the feel of them. They say: “Here’s what it feels like to me. Do you grasp what I’m saying? That was a tough problem. That was a heavy burden. That was a weighty issue.”

People don’t always use the same sensory words, of course, but we do tend to use one sensory process about 70% of the time.

If you want me to understand how you feel, see what you mean, or get in tune with your ideas, you need to talk to me in words I’ll either relate to visually, auditorily, or kinesthetically. If you talk to me in flowers, and I hear in pastry, we can’t communicate. This is a very sophisticated form of communicating and can be very effective.

Know Your Nonverbals

Body movement, eye contact, posture, and clothing are also very important elements. Studies prove that 93% of your message is nonverbal and symbolic.

Employees learn to cue on the boss’ moods; spouses learn to react to each other’s movements; children instinctively watch for signs from their parents.

Studies have also taught us that sometimes our tongues say one thing, our bodies say another thing, and our symbols—like clothing and hairstyles—say still a third thing. When this occurs, the normal person will believe what they see, not what they hear.

So, you need to be constantly aware of the image you portray. Is it one of assertive confidence? Is someone willing to listen and solve problems? Or is it of someone unfriendly and uncaring? Do your clothes and posture reflect a person of high quality or one with sloppy habits?

Over two centuries ago, Ben Franklin said, “Power is with the person who can communicate well.” It’s truer today than it has ever been. And the power exists within you. All it takes is awareness and practice.

Communication Differences Between Men and Women

Men and women have communicated differently since the dawn of time. These differences can create communication problems that undermine productivity and interpersonal communication. Surveys identified five common communication problems between men and women (Tingley, 1994). They as

  1. Men were too authoritarian,
  2. Men did not take women seriously,
  3. Women were too emotional,
  4. Men did not accept women as co-workers or bosses, and
  5. Women did not speak up enough.

Gender-based differences in communication are partly caused by linguistic styles commonly used by men and women.

Linguistic style refers to a person’s characteristic speaking pattern (Tannen, 1995:139). It includes such features as directness or indirectness, pacing and pausing, word choice, and the use of such elements as jokes, figures of speech, stories, questions, and apologies.

In other words, linguistic style is a set of culturally learned signals by which we communicate what we mean, interpret others’ meanings, and evaluate one another as people. Research demonstrates that men and women communicate differently in several ways.

Tannen (1995: 138-48) has presented the seven different communication patterns that vary between men and women, which are presented below in a table:

Taking CreditGreater use of “we” statement; less likely to boast about their achievement.Greater use of “we” statement; less likely to boast about their achievement.
Greater use of “we” statement; less likely to boast about their achievement.More likely to indicate a lack of uncertainty about an issue.
Asking QuestionsLess likely to ask questions.More likely to ask questions.
ConversationcRitualsLess likely to indicate that They are uncertain about an issue.More frequently say, ”I’m sorry”.
Giving ComplementsStingy with praisePay more compliments than men
Giving FeedbackMore direct and bluntMore tactful; tend to temper criticism with praise.
IndirectnessIndirect when it comes to admitting fault or when they don’t know something.Indirect when telling others what to do.

Guidelines To Improve Communication Between Men and Women

Experts suggest a few guidelines to improve communication between men and women that are as follows:

  1. The differences in communication styles between sexes cannot be generalized to include all men and women. Some men are less likely to boast about their achievements, while some women are less likely to share the credit.
  2. Men and women should learn to genderflex. Genderflex entails the temporary use of communication behaviors typical of the other gender in order to increase the potential for influence (Tingley: 1994).
  3. Everyone needs to become aware of how linguistic styles work and how they influence our perceptions and judgments.
  4. Everyone should remember that men and women have different ways of saying the same thing.