Communication Cycle: Definition & Stages

Communication Cycle: Definition & Stages
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  • 0:00 What is the…
  • 0:55 Communication Cycle Stages
  • 2:35 Communication Cycle Example
  • 4:17 Broadcasting
  • 5:04 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Lisa Millraney

Lisa has 27 years of experience treating speech, language, memory and swallowing disorders. She has a master's degree in speech pathology from Vanderbilt University.

In this lesson, we will learn the parts of the communication cycle. We will discuss senders and receivers, encoding and decoding, and messages and feedback. We will also learn how the cycle functions, and sometimes malfunctions, on the personal and social levels.

What Is the Communication Cycle?

Communication is one of the most vital elements of society. People need people, and to interact, it's essential they be able to convey messages and understand each other. The communication cycle expresses how the system of conveying and understanding messages operates.

Different depictions of the cycle may include slightly different steps and descriptions, but most agree on the basic elements:

  • Sender: the person or entity originating the communication
  • Message: the information that the sender wishes to convey
  • Encoding: how the sender chooses to bring the message into a form appropriate for sending
  • Channel: the means by which the message is sent
  • Receiver: the person or entity to whom the message is sent
  • Decoding: how the receiver interprets and understands the message
  • Feedback: the receiver's response to the message

Communication Cycle Stages

The sender decides what their message is, how it will be expressed and sent, and who the receiver is. As a general rule, the message should be kept as simple and direct as possible and all content of the message checked for accuracy.

Many factors must be considered when a sender is encoding a message. Language barriers, whether between one tongue or another or between two dialects of the same language, must be addressed, as must cultural differences that may affect how a receiver perceives the sender's intent. In short, the sender needs to know his or her audience and take time to anticipate places where breakdown may happen.

The channel through which the message is sent can affect the end result as well. Some messages are more effective in writing, others when delivered in person, and still others when sent via electronic means.

When the receiver gets the message, the process of decoding begins. The ball is now in their court; they must do their best to filter out distractions and take time to digest the entire message. It's important not to make assumptions or jump to conclusions, but to rely solely on the information included. In addition, errors in decoding often occur simply when the receiver isn't sure they understand something but don't make the effort to ask for clarification or are too timid to ask.

Requesting clarification of elements of a message is part of a good feedback phase of a communication cycle. Feedback should not be only negative, though. Positive responses to a sender's clarity, thoroughness, or other good qualities are always important and appreciated and help the sender to be an even more effective communicator in the future.

Communication Cycle Example

The communication cycle is played out many times daily, in large venues and small. For example, Clay has some exciting news: his cousin got him tickets to the hottest show in town. He wants his best friend Nick to attend with him. In this example, Clay is the sender, Nick is the receiver, and the news about the tickets is the message.

Clay must decide how to best encode the message and what channel will be most appropriate to send it by. Since the show is next week, a slow channel like a letter isn't the way to go. He might prefer encoding in writing, but choose the channel of a text message. He also needs to consider his receiver. If he knows Nick has dyslexia and gets very anxious about texting, he might reject that route to avoid making his friend uncomfortable. If he knows Nick doesn't keep up with current trends, Clay would not want to send a text full of abbreviations and slang. ''Yo bruh! Holly scored me 2 ducats 2 next Sun A Ham 2p. U wanna? Lmk!'' might read like a foreign language to poor Nick.

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