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What is Communication?

Communication is simply the act of transferring information from one place to another.


Although this is a simple definition, when we think about how we may communicate the subject becomes a lot more complex. There are various categories of communication and more than one may occur at any time. The different categories of communication are:

Spoken or Verbal Communication: face-to-face, telephone, radio or television or other media.



Non-Verbal Communication: body language, gestures, how we dress or act - even our scent.



Written Communication: letters, e-mails, books, magazines, the Internet or via other media.


The Communication Process :- A message or communication is sent by the sender through a communication channel to a receiver, or to multiple receivers.  The sender must encode the message (the information being conveyed) into a form that is appropriate to the communication channel, and the receiver(s) then decodes the message to understand its meaning and significance. Misunderstanding can occur at any stage of the communication process. Effective communication involves minimising potential misunderstanding and overcoming any barriers to communication at each stage in the communication process. An effective communicator understands their audience, chooses an appropriate communication channel, hones their message to this channel and encodes the message to reduce misunderstanding by the receiver(s).  They will also seek out feedback from the receiver(s) as to how the message is understood and attempt to correct any misunderstanding or confusion as soon as possible.

Encoding Messages

All messages must be encoded into a form that can be conveyed by the communication channel chosen for the message.  We all do this every day when transferring abstract thoughts into spoken words or a written form.  However, other communication channels require different forms of encoding, e.g. text written for a report will not work well if broadcast via a radio programme, and the short, abbreviated text used in text messages would be inappropriate if sent via a letter. Complex data may be best communicated using a graph or chart or other visualisation.

Effective communicators encode their messages with their intended audience in mind as well as the communication channel. This involves an appropriate use of language, conveying the information simply and clearly, anticipating and eliminating likely causes of confusion and misunderstanding, and knowing the receivers’ experience in decoding other similar communications.  Successful encoding of messages is a vital skill in effective communication.

Decoding Messages

Once received, the receivers need to decode the message, and successful decoding is also a vital skill.  Individuals will decode and understand messages in different ways based upon any barriers to communication which might be present, their experience and understanding of the context of the message, their psychological state, and the time and place of receipt as well as many other potential factors.  Understanding how the message will be decoded, and anticipating as many of the potential sources of misunderstanding as possible, is the art of a successful communicator.


Effective communicators should pay close attention to this feedback as it the only way to assess whether the message has been understood as intended, and it allows any confusion to be corrected.  Bear in mind that the extent and form of feedback will vary according to the communication channel used: for example feedback during a face-to-face or telephone conversation will be immediate and direct, whilst feedback to messages conveyed via TV or radio will be indirect and may be delayed, or even conveyed through other media such as the Internet.  

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