The Concept/Definition of Communication
• Communication is the act of conveying meanings from one entity or group to another through the use of mutually understood signs, symbols, and semiotic rules.
• Communication is the act of transferring information from one place, person or group to another. Every communication involves (at least) one sender, a message and a recipient. These include our emotions, the cultural situation, the medium used to communicate, and even our location.
• Communication is the process of passing information and understanding from one person to another.” In simple words, it is a process of transmitting and sharing ideas, opinions, facts, values etc. from one person to another.
• Communication is the process of sharing meaning. Meaning is at the heart of the communication process.
• Communication is a systematic process in which individuals interact with and through symbols to create and interpret meaning. Systematic means it consists of interdependent variables. Communication is a process because it is ongoing, dynamic and ever changing.
Other definitions are
• The contemporary definition of communication indicates that communication is the transfer and receipt of information.
• Communication is the combined art and science of transferring verbal and/or nonverbal information from one party to another with the primary objective of revealing to the recipient, either precisely or vaguely, ideas or declarations which the communicator intends to convey.
• Communication can be defined as the combination of the processes we implement to share and convey information.
• The difference between communication and communication skills is that communication is a fundamental of existence – the exchange of ideas and using variety of of media, from spoken words to body language, written text to painted symbols, song to dance. Communication skills on the other hand are the tools we develop to improve and make more efficient that exchange of ideas. Communication skills is a subset of soft or transferable skills.
Forms/types of communication
Clear communication is very essential. Improper communication skills may lead to confusing or incomplete instructions to the intended audience. It is therefore, very essential to develop strong communication skills in teaching and learning. A deep understanding of the process of communication and communication skills is essential. It is vital to the success of any teacher or learner in teaching and learning. Communication are put into types depending on the focus of the author. In this course, communication is put into types based on channels of communication and on the style and purpose of communication.
a. Type based on communication channels
Communication based on channels of communication will give two subcategories namely verbal and non-verbal. Non-Verbal communication is sub-categorized into oral and written forms.
i. Verbal Communication
This involves the use of language and words for passing on the intended message. Generally, Verbal Communication means communication in the form of spoken words only but, in the context of types of communication, verbal communication can be in the spoken or the written form. Thus, the verbal form may be written or oral as discussed below.
• Written Communication: This kind of communication involves any kind of exchange of information in the written form. For example, e-mails, texts, memos, letters, reports, SMS, posts on social media platforms, documents, handbooks, posters, flyers, etc. It also serves as vehicle for expressing desire, ideas and concepts and is vital process of learning and teaching. They are easy to understand and highly structured. In this type of communication, there is less possibility of distortion. It begins with a word and ends with a word. It gives a less delayed feedback.
• Oral Communication: This is the communication, which employs the spoken word, either direct or indirect as a communication channel. This verbal communication form could be made on a channel that passes information in only one form i.e. sound. You could converse either face to face, or over the phone, or via voice notes or chat rooms, etc. Classroom oral presentation and discussions, dramatization, poetry recital are examples. It all comes under the oral communication. This form of communication is an effective form.
ii. Non-Verbal Communication
In this type of communication, messages are relayed without the transmission of words. The messages here are wordless messages. This form of communication mainly aides verbal communication. It supplements it with gestures, body language, symbols, and expressions. Through these, one may communicate one’s mood or opinion or even show a reaction to the messages that are relayed. One’s non-verbal actions often set the tone for the dialogue. You can control and guide the communication if you control and guide the non-verbal communication. The following are types of non-verbal communication.
The diagram below shows how we can improve non-verbal communication skills.
b. Communication type based on style and purpose
This type of classification gives sub-categories as formal and informal Communication.
i. Formal communication
Formal communication refers to exchange of information officially. The flow of communication is controlled and is a deliberate effort. This makes it possible for the information to reach the desired target without any hindrance. The following are types:
• Vertical: The information or data flows up and down the organizational structure.
• Horizontal: This is the communication between two similar levels of the organization.
• Diagonal: This is the communication across the cross-functional levels of employees from various departments of the organization.
ii. Informal communication (add notes)
The figure below illustrates the types of communication
Characteristics of effective communication
Ensuring effective communication to get the desired effect is not easy to come by. Knowing the characteristics of effective communication is a step in achieving effective communication especially in the teaching learning process. The following are some characteristics of an effective communication:
• Completeness: Effective communication is complete, that is the receiver gets all the information he/she needs to process the message and take action.
• Conciseness: Conciseness is about keeping the message to a point. This is more about the content of your message rather than its length. Even a short essay can include irrelevant or redundant information. Conciseness helps the receiver focus (e.g. students) on what is important, speeds up the processing of information and caters for improved understanding. Time is an essential parameter in communications. The normal attention span is just a few minutes long. If a speaker presents the message in a clear and beautiful manner, which is very long, the core of the message may be lost altogether. Long and lengthy communique is boring and avoided by most. In short, effective communication has to be concise.
• Concreteness: A concrete message is specific, tangible and vivid. It is supported by facts and figures for enhanced trustworthiness. It helps your listeners gain an overview of the broader picture. Concreteness deals the risk of misunderstanding, fosters trust and encourages constructive criticism. Messages should have data that suitably backs it up. A tangible argument is always easy to understand.
• Courtesy: Courtesy and consideration complement each other in effective communications. Courtesy means respecting the receiver’s culture, values and beliefs – i.e. crafting a message that is genuinely polite and unbiased. The presenter should try his best to be honest, respectful, considerate, open and polite with the receiver of the information. The message when supplemented with proper care and kindness will definitely find an audience.
• Clearness: The clearer your message, the easier it gets the receiver to decode it according to the original intent. While this is important, most communication pitfalls originate from lack of clarity. To deliver an effective communication, start with a clear goal and accurate thoughts. Clear communications build on exact language use and concrete words, to reduce ambiguities and confusion in the communication process. Effective communication is about delivering an information unambiguously, so that the receiver can decode it correctly.
• Correctness: Correct grammar and syntax guarantee increased effectiveness and credibility of your message in the classroom. Formal errors might affect the clarity of your message, bring about ambiguity and raise doubts. They might also have a negative impact on the overall perception of the message, which could be seen as sloppy or negligent.
• Consideration: Effective communication takes into account the receiver’s background and points of view. If your message sounds as disrespectful, the emotional reaction of the receiver might affect the perception of your message. Also, tailoring your message to your audience (learners) – e.g. by using argumentations and examples which are relevant to their experience – makes it easier for them to process the contents.
Another important characteristic of effective communication is coherence. When you are presenting your communique (lesson), you need to be coherent. You need to understand what goes where and what comes when. The key to a coherent write-up or delivery is a well-planned, logical and sequential presentation of the information. The main ideas should be differentiable and they should follow each other in a way that is derivative of some rules.
Process of communication
The communication process is the steps we take in order to successfully communicate to our audience (learners). Components of the communication process include a sender, encoding of a message, selecting of a channel of communication, receipt of the message by the receiver and decoding of the message. The communication process consists of several components. It involves:
• A sender is the party that sends a message. The sender needs the message, which is the information to be conveyed. The sender needs to encode her message, which is transforming her thoughts of the information to be conveyed into a form that can be sent, such as words.
• A channel of communication must also be selected, which is the manner in which the message is sent. Channels of communication include speaking, writing, video transmission, audio transmission, electronic transmission through emails, text messages and even nonverbal communication, such as body language. The sender also needs to know the target of her communication, who is called the receiver. The receiver must be able to decode the message, which means mentally processing the message into understanding. If the receiver cannot decode, the message fails. For example, sending a message in a language that is not understood by the receiver (your students) probably will result in decoding failure. Sometimes, a receiver will give the sender feedback, which is a message sent by the receiver back to the sender.
Simple view of how the communication process works