Communication Basics

What is Communication?

“The transfer or conveying of a message or feeling in any form to the other people”.

Based on the definition above all of us communicate every day for most of the day. In fact we communicate for 80% of the working day of which 60% of the time we are listening. This means that 20% of the conversations are not received correctly. This communication can be in the form of audio, visual or a combination of both. The reasons that we communicate include for work and for pleasure. In order to lead others effective communication is important. Communication is used to convey a message, deliver instructions or build relationships.

“We are born with one mouth and two ears- use them in that proportion” John F Kennedy

Communication Model

Above is a simple flowchart for how communication works. Here is a quick explanation of each part of the process:

Speaker – The person who is sending a message.

Message to send – The message that the speaker wishes to send. Once the message is sent the speaker loses control on how the message will be interpreted.

Encode – The speaker Encodes the message based on their experience and knowledge. Their background, culture, experiences and environment will all impact on how the message is encoded.

Message Medium – The medium that the message can be sent can be audio or visual. This includes talking, email, writing, music, movies and sign language. Depending on the medium there can be interruptions in the environment that can confuse the message.

Decode – The Listener will decode the message based on their experience and knowledge. When the background and experience of the Listener is Speaker the decoding may not be equal to the encoding and the message can get mixed up.

Message Received – The decoded message is then ready for the listener.

Listener – The person receiving the message.

So in summary communication:

  • Covers a vast parameter of situations and relationships
  • Can be verbal or non-verbal
  • Can involve speaking, listening, writing, actions, lack of actions, feelings, emotions, associations and relationships.
  • It is necessary to have an understanding of the components of effective communication to lead others.

Components of Communication

When communicating face to face there are three components communication:

  • Verbal – the message itself, the words said
  • Vocal – the sender’s voice, intonation, projection and resonance
  • Visual – what the receiver sees of the sender’s face and body

Professor Albert Merabian conducted a study about communication and found that when conducting face to face communication the listener interprets your communication as:

  • Verbal 7%
  • Vocal 38%
  • Visual 55%

Therefore when talking to people the message you send is only 7% the actual words that you speak. 38% is the way you say the words, for example the tone, projection, pitch and volume. While 55% is what they see, for example facial expressions and hand expressions. To demonstrate this think about the following:

  • What do you think when someone has folded arms (not interested)
  • Head Movements (Yes/No)
  • Shoulder Shrug (I don’t know)
  • Drumming Fingers (Bored or Impatient)
  • Smiling (Open and Friendly)

When your words, vocal and visual all match up then you send a consistent message, however when they do not then you send a mixed message. Imagine someone who is sitting on the couch with their arms crossed tells you “I am excited” in a low volume and slow pitch. Do you really think that this person is really excited?

When communicating in non-face to face communications, such as email, we lose the vocal and visual components of communication. This means that we have to be careful in what we write and how it is communicated.

Receiving the Message (Listening)

Listening is just as important as speaking, if not more so. When it comes to communication it is important to understand what the speaker is trying to say. Note the following Styles of listening

  • Not listening – ie not hearing the answer to a throw away question
  • Casual listening – ie half listening to the radio while doing your homework.
  • Listening for benefit – ie listening to teachers or someone giving directions

Listening for benefit is also known as effective listening or active listening. In order to actively listening here are some helpful tips:

  • Concentrate on the speaker. Give the speaker your full attention and listen to what is said and how it is said.
  • Avoid interruptions or interrupting. Wait for the speaker to deliver the full message.
  • Demonstrate interest and curb daydreaming.
  • Ask questions when you don’t understand.
  • Respond with feedback.
  • Confirm you received the message correctly.
  • Seek areas of agreement.

Written Communication

Written Communication is an important means of communication in business. As the sender (speaker) can only use words or pictures and cannot rely on vocal cues written communication can be the hard skill to master. Business communications should be brief, but concise and clear. Ensure that your grammar and spelling is good. Before starting the document, be sure that you know what you want to say. A written document is set out in a logical way. Most business documents will have an opening, body and a conclusion.

Successful Communication

In summary, for successful communication ensure the following:

  1. The sender should know the subject, ascertain the receiver’s level of knowledge and start at that level, avoiding jargon
  2. The sender should respect the intelligence of the receiver
  3. Both sender and receiver should pay attention
  4. The receiver should listen effectively
  5. The receiver should ask questions, clarify statements and give effective feedback

Created by: Attila Ovari
© Attila & Kim Ovari 2012. The content of this Article may be reproduced with permission of the author. Correct as at 08 November 2012


  1. Most often if both (sender / receiver) are open and ask questions to understand better, the communication meets its purpose…

    • Very true… Being open is an important part of communication…. Sometimes our cultural background, history and experience can blur the way we send (encode) or receive (decode) the message….

  1. Pingback: Introduction to Communications | Attila & Kim Ovari

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