The simplest communication model is:
The model indicates three essential elements of communication. If anyone of them is missing, no communication can take place. For example, one may send a message, but if it is not heard or received by someone, no communication has occurred.
This simple model, however, does not take account of the complexity of the communication process. There is something between the receiver and the sender besides the message. This would be apparent from the use of telephone by the sender and the receiver. The sender may send a message but the receiver may hear or receive a different message, i. e., one not intended by the sender.
Harold Lasswell., Claude Shannon and Warren Weaver conducted a lot of research on communication process in 1948-49. They developed a more sophisticated model. Lasswell asked the following questions which throw light on the process of communication:
- Who? (Sender – originator of the message).
- Says what? Verbal, or non-verbal symbols that constitute the message.
- In which channel? Selection of transmission channel-speaking, writing etc.
- To whom? Intentional or unintentional receiver of the message.
- With what effect? Is the message interpreted accurately and responded to appropriately?
Shannon and Weaver attempted to describe the general process of communication for all situations. Their model included the basic elements of communication process, viz., a communicator or sender; an encoder; a message; transmission, a decoder, a receiver, feedback and noise. An adaptation the model is given in Figure 1 helps understand the process of communication. Salient features of this model are discussed below:
i) Sender is a person who has some information or message and has a need or desire or purpose of communicating it, to one or more people. He is the initiator of the communication process. Before taking the next step of encoding the message, he should conceptualise it. This is the planning stage which many managers skip with disastrous results.
ii) Encoding takes place when the sender translates the information to be transmitted into a series of symbols. It is necessary because information can be passed on from one individual to another through representations and symbols. It involves the selection of media through which the message is transmitted. Media includes speaking, writing, signaling (e. g. by flags), physically contacting (e. g. kissing, beating) etc. The object of encoding the message is to select the best medium for its transmission. While encoding the message, the sender has to keep in mind the principles of mutuality of meaning which means that he should use symbols that have the same meaning for the sender and the receiver. Lack of mutuality may result in mis-understanding and lack of communication.
iii) Message is the physical form into which the sender encodes the information. It may be in any form which can be experienced and understood by one or more senses of the receiver. For example, speech may be heard; written words may be read; gestures may be seen or felt. Non-verbal messages may also be very meaningful at times. For example, a smile or frown while greeting an acquaintance may convey much more than the mere fact of greeting.
iv) Channel is the method of transmission or message from one person to another – such as air for spoken word and paper for written word. It is often inseparable from the message. For effective and efficient communication, the channel must be appropriate for the message. For example, a telephonic conversation may be a poor channel for communicating a complicated financial analysis concerning a project. How to choose the best channel? The channel has to be selected on the basis of the needs of the particular situation. Written and graphic communications letter, reports, memos, etc., are clear and precise and can form part of permanent record. The telephonic or face to face communication provides immediate feedback. For choosing the appropriate channel, manager may decide whether clarity is more important or feedback. There may be many other factors to be considered. Often people do not use the best channel. For example, some people use a telephone merely because they do not like writing and not because it is the most appropriate channel for the purpose.
v) Receiving simply involves the physical reception of the message, e. g., hearing, seeing, feeling, sensing, etc.
vi) Decoding is the process by which the receiver interprets the message and translates it into meaningful information. It has two clear processes the receiver first.
a) perceives the message and then b) interprets it. Decoding is affected by a number of factors; like
- The receiver’s past experience.
- Previous experience of similar communication
- Personal assessment of symbols and gestures
- Expectations-People tend to hear what they want to hear.
- Mutuality of meaning between the sender and the receiver.
In general, the more the receiver’s decoding corresponds to the sender’s intended message, the more effective the communication has been.
vii) Noise is any factor that disturbs, confuses or otherwise interferes with communication. It can be:
- Internal – e. g., when the receiver is not paying attention; or
- External – when the message is distorted by environment.
Noise may occur at any stage of the communication process. It may occur at the stage of encoding, e. g. by bad hand writing in a message or at the stage of decoding, for example, when the receiver is unable to hear the message properly. It may also occur in the channel, e. g., by distortion of radio signal due to bad weather.
Since the noise interferes with the communication, the managers must attempt to keep it down even though they may not be able to completely eliminate it.
viii) Feedback is the receiver’s reaction to the message sent back to the sender. It is the reverse communication which has to be followed through the same process as the sender’s initial communication. In an organisational situation, feedback could be direct, such as, the acknowledgement of a letter or indirect, such as the one expressed through actions or documentation. In most organisational situations, feedback is a very important phenomenon. In fact greater the feedback, the more effective the communication process is likely to be. It can enable the managers to know whether their instructions have been properly understood. It will also enable them to get a knowledge of the effects of the communication and to take appropriate corrective measures where necessary.