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The Communication Process

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  • 0:44 The Communication Process
  • 2:08 Hearing vs. Listening
  • 3:00 Noise
  • 4:48 Effective…
  • 6:37 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Sherri Hartzell

Sherri has taught college business and communication courses. She also holds three degrees including communications, business, educational leadership/technology.

This lesson describes the process of communication. Terms such as sender, receiver, channel, encoding, decoding, noise, and feedback will be defined and explained with examples.

Spandex, Anyone?

When was the last time you thought about your communication? Have you ever really considered what occurs when information is exchanged, or do you just go through your daily motions treating communication much like you do breathing, in that you find it to be an effortless, almost automatic activity? Don't feel bad if you do; as with most things that we do on a continuous basis, the process of communication becomes easy to forget. So, let's see if we can refresh your memory and get you to think about the communication process as frequently as Spider-Man thinks about his spandex.

The Communication Process

The communication process is relatively simple and is divided into three basic components: a sender, a channel, and a receiver. The sender will initiate the communication process by developing an idea into a message. This is also known as encoding. The sender will then transmit the message through a channel, or a method of delivery; think of things like e-mail, phone conversations, instant messages, face-to-face discussion, or even a text message. The message then moves through the channel to the receiver, who completes the communication process by interpreting and assigning meaning to the message, which is also known as decoding.

Now, since most communication exchanges involve a continued dialogue between senders and receivers, a feedback loop was added to the communication process. Although I know some of you wish your spouse would forget about this at times, the feedback loop is a critical component in the communication process because it ensures a message was properly received and interpreted by the other party. In the workplace, feedback is especially significant so that a manager can be certain the messages that he or she sends are, in fact, received and interpreted correctly, eliciting the appropriate action from subordinates.

Can You Hear Me Now?

Here's where the communication process starts to get tricky. We all know that there is a major difference between hearing and listening. We can use either one of these during the communication process, but it is only those individuals who use effective listening skills when communicating that will be able to check for understanding during the exchange.

An understanding is achieved when both the sender and receiver agree on the shared meaning of a message. That is, that each party can agree on what is being communicated without the need for inferences or assumptions. While this is certainly the goal of all communication, it is not always achieved.

There are many reasons why a message fails to generate a shared understanding or meaning. Noise is defined as any interference that causes a disruption between the sender and receiver in the communication process. Barking dogs, your coworker listening to his or her voicemail on speakerphone, car alarms, and the excessive bass coming from your car stereo are not the only noises I am talking about. Noise can be psychological, physical, physiological, or semantic noise.

Psychological noise refers to things that are going on in your head as you engage in the communication process. Perhaps you are wondering if you left the iron on at home, or what to make for dinner, and maybe even if the other person can smell that awful fart you just let rip. It can also be any personal opinions, stereotypes, or perspectives that get in the way of you accepting what the sender is saying. If the message conflicts with what we already think or believe, we can have a hard time listening to the message, and thus, we don't get the full understanding.

Physical noise is that first type of noise I talked about a minute ago; they are those physical sounds that make it difficult to hear someone's message, much like when you are trying to give a really hot person your number at the nightclub with that music pounding in your ears.

Physiological noise refers to things like hunger, fatigue, headache, stress, or really anything that prevents us from giving our full attention.

Semantic noise occurs when you have a hard time understanding the words, language, or grammatical structure of a message. This is common when two people from different cultures are communicating.

Effective Communication in Action

To better understand the communication process in action, let's take a look at this example.

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