The First Step to Understanding the Process of Communicating


Image by P Shanks

The definition of communication is shared in the Webster's Dictionary as "sending, giving, or exchanging information and ideas." This can be expressed in many ways; verbal, nonverbal, written word, and through images. 

Even though we find ourselves communicating constantly with others, the experience of doing so still must be studied to fully grasp. 

A great start in understanding this social interaction is to learn two basic concepts: 

First, when we are communicating with others we play the role of source and of receiver. Author Pamela S. Shockley-Zalabak (2009) defines this as: "Individuals send messages as sources and receive messages as receivers. The process is often so rapid as to appear simultaneous" (pg. 9).

Second, we are encoding and decoding messages as this process is occurring. This is defined as: "Message encoding is the process of formulating messages, choosing content and symbols to convey meaning. Message decoding is the process of assigning meaning in the role of receiver to message symbols generated by the message source" (Shockley-Zalabak, 2009, pg 10). 

These concepts do not change with the written word. In this case, we just play only one of the two roles, source or receiver, and we just encode or decode. The author of the news article encodes and then sends a message. The viewer and the reader receive and decode the message. (The exception to this is the modern text message or instant message, in which we are using the written word to communicate in real time, just as fast as we can verbally). 

As we study the human communication process, it is important to remember these basic concepts. As communication theories become more complex, it is helpful to know that the foundation begins here. 

Ask your self after reading this post, what roles in this process did I play as the writer? What roles did you play as the reader? 

Shockley-Zalabak, P. S. (2009). Fundamentals of Organizational Communication: Knowledge, Sensitivity, Skills, Values (7th ed). New York: Pearson

3 Responses to “The First Step to Understanding the Process of Communicating”

  1. Adele says:

    Communication is the way messages are sent and received between individuals and groups. The role you played in this blog was to encode a message to those who will be reading this blog. The role of the recipient (me) was to receive the message that was sent. Your message filters through my beliefs and opinions. Because of the feedback I am now providing, you can be assured that your message was received!

  2. @Adele I see you got exactly the message I was putting out. Great break down.

  3. Barbara says:

    Hello Jason,

    The first step to understanding the communication process is the sender and receiver of messages. Your approach and my approach are slightly different. I decided to write about my study of communication and how the process has helped me to communicate more effectively.

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