The Communication Model
The Communication Model is a standard description of communication between two people. It demonstrates that communication is a loop with six components, as described below:
- The sender, from whom a message originates.
- The receiver, to whom the message is sent.
- The message, which is the information the sender wants to give to the receiver.
- Feedback, which is a response sent from the receiver to the sender.
- Noise, which is any external disturbance that may interfere with accurate delivery of the message.
- Filters, which modify the formation or reception of the message.
When examining virtual communications, we include one more component:
- Media, which is the method by which the information is carried from one party to another.
We will now examine each of these components more thoroughly.
The sender is the person who intends to deliver a message to one or more people. The sender initiates the conversation and sets the stage for how the communication will take place.
The receiver is the person who receives the initial message. The receiver must decide whether to respond to the message or not.
The message relays information. Both the content of the message and the method in which it is delivered impact the quality of the communication.
For example, a message spoken over a choppy phone line may result in a misunderstanding that is equally as problematic as a sender who communicates only part of the information over a clear line.
If the information is not delivered appropriately, it is simply meaningless data. All messages should be meaningful.
Feedback is a response from a receiver back to the sender, and it tells the sender:
- The message was received.
- The message was received correctly.
Some communications are intended simply to broadcast information. Examples include an announcement or a warning. These may not require feedback, particularly if they were sent to a large group of recipients.
Most messages benefit from feedback. Feedback may vary as follows:
- Feedback may be a simple grunt or an "OK."
- Feedback may be a full paraphrasing of what was received.
- Feedback may request clarification if the message was not clearly understood.
When a sender receives feedback, he or she should:
- Reply to a paraphrasing of the original message with a confirmation or with clarification.
- Reply to a request for clarification with more information.
In good communication, the message-feedback loop is repeated until both participants are satisfied that accurate communication has taken place.
Noise, as it relates to communication, is not exclusive to sound. There are many kinds of noise, including:
- Environmental conditions.
- Daily activities.
- Mental distractions.
In most situations, there will be noise. It is both the sender's and receiver's responsibility to be aware of the noise in their environment and to do what is necessary to overcome that noise. This may mean:
- Moving into another room.
- Turning off or setting aside electronic devices.
- Pausing a project.
In all cases, the effects of noise can be minimized by focusing attention on the conversation and speaker.
Filters are personal values and ideas that modify the formation or reception of a message. Filters include:
- Personal biases, including preferences and values.
- Emotions based on past experiences and traditions.
- Self-centeredness or self-preservation.
While some filters, particularly emotion-based filters, may negatively affect communication, not all filters are bad. Healthy filters help us discern between right and wrong, and are a part of our evaluation process that we build through experiences and education. The key to good communication is to understand filters and manage them intentionally. A good communicator will:
- Be aware of his or her personal biases.
- Consider how his or her values and preferences affect the delivery or interpretation of a message.
- Control the emotional impact and defensiveness triggered by filters.
- Respect the other person's perspective, whether or not he or she agrees with it.
Media are tools used to deliver a message. Media includes all devices and transportation systems on which the message travels, including such things as:
- A phone.
- A phone line or network.
- A fax machine.
- Instant messenger.
- Satellite transmissions.
- Traditional mail.
- The paper and pen used to hand write a message.
- A website.
- An animated graphic on a website.
In virtual communications, the medium selected for a message may have a great impact on the quality of the communication between two or more people, as we will learn later in this course.