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What do we mean by communicating effectively? The object of

On completion of this lesson you will understand

communication is to convey thoughts/ intentions/emotions/
• What is communication? facts/ideas of one person or group to the others. When the
• How important it is in context of business organizations? message sent is received and understood by the receiver in the
• How communication process works? same sense , as the sender wants to convey ,effective communi-
cation takes place. When the receiver misunderstands a message
“Communication” is a process — an activity that serves to we consider it a distortion in communication. Throughout our
connect senders and receivers of messages through space study, we would try to improve our communication skills so
and time. Although human beings tend to be interested that we can make ourselves better understood in our communi-
primarily in the study of human communication, the process is cations.
present in all living things and, it can be argued, in all things. The fact is that we spend so much of our time communicating;
From this we may conclude that communication is a funda- we tend to assume that we are experts. Surveys indicate that
mental, universal process. when business professionals are asked to rate their communica-
How often have you heard statements such as these? tion skills, virtually everyone overestimates his or her abilities as
• If you want to be promoted, you’ll have to improve your a communicator. There is a natural tendency to blame the other
communication skills. person for the problems in understanding or making ourselves
• One of the strengths of our relationship over the years has
understood. The better option is to improve one’s own
been that we communicate so well - in fact, usually I know communication. One has to be always on a look to identify his
what she’s thinking before she tells me! weak points as a communicator and strive to overcome them.
This needs a thorough understanding of meaning and process
• The lightening storm knocked out our communication
of communication.
systems, and since then we haven’t handled a single
customer call. Meaning of Communication
• He’s really smart, and he knows his stuff, but as a teacher he
Communication is derived from the Latin word communis,
just doesn’t communicate it very well. which means, “ to share” that is, sharing of ideas, concepts,
feelings and emotions. The science of communication is almost
• They say they built the product to meet our specifications,
as old as man himself. Form time immemorial; the need to
but it’s not what we asked for - I think we have a share or to communicate had been felt. Different vehicles /
communication problem here. channels were identified and subsequently improvised for the
The word “communicate” derives from the word “common” - purpose of transmission of ideas and concepts. A study of
to share, exchange, send along, transmit, talk, gesture, write, put these channels enables us to gain an insight into the process of
in use, relate. So an investigation of this subject might begin communication.
with the question: What do all studies of communication have
in common? What are the shared concepts that make the study Before a definition of communication is arrived at, a few
of “communication” different from the study of subjects such queries, which arise in the minds of the readers, have to be
as “thought” or “literature” or “life?” When someone says, answered. What is the importance of communication? Why
“this is a communication problem,” what does that mean? should it be studied? Why should the channel be analyzed and
When a baby sees his mother’s face for the first time, communi-
cation happens. When someone steps out onto a beach in Goa The importance of communication can be gauged from the fact
and water touches his feet communication happens. When the that we are communicating in some from or the other almost
Indian parliament passes a new bill to curb monopolies in the every moment of our lives. Whether we are walking,, talking
market and the President signs, communication happens. ,playing, sitting, or even sleeping, a message is being formulated
When a computer in Delhi calls up a computer in Tokyo and and transmitted. Man, who is a social animal, is constantly
transmits a message, communication happens. interacting with other individuals. For him it is necessary to
understand the art of communication and apply or modify it in
Communication is a general phenomenon. It occurs in nature, a suitable manner. Man possesses the ability to communicate,
wherever life exists. Whether we recognize it or not, we have no which is much more than a composition of certain symbolize
choice but to communicate. If we try to avoid communicating or to understand concepts in terms of images or symbols. It is
by not replying to messages, we are nevertheless sending a this ability that helps him to communicate. Communication
message, but it may not be the one we want or intend. When then, it may be stated, is much more than an understanding of
we don’t say yes, we may be saying no by default – and vice the spoken or written language. It is a composite of symbols,
versa. The only choice we can make about communication is
whether we are going to attempt to communicate effectively.

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gestures, and illustrations that accompany either the spoken or A Study-tour of Communication

the written word. This tour presents a fundamental overview of the study of
communication with emphasis on the study of human
Basic Purpose of Communication
communication. The sections may be used in any order, though
People in organizations typically spend over 75% of their time in
a comprehensive study would normally begin with section
an interpersonal situation; thus it is no surprise to find that at the
number one and consider each in the order listed below.
root of a large number of organizational problems is poor
communications. Effective communication is an essential compo- 1. The Communication Process
nent of organizational success whether it is at the interpersonal, Communication is a process that serves to connect senders and
intergroup, intragroup, organizational, or external levels. receivers of messages in space and time. Although human
beings tend to be interested primarily in the study of human
“What is the purpose of (formal) communication?” A
communication, the process is present in all living things and, it
response to a query of this nature would be more beneficial if
can be argued, in all things. From this we may conclude that
attempts were made to understand the business situation
communication is a fundamental, universal process.
where success or failure of issues is always measured in terms
of man- hours spent in the completion of a task. Let us take an
example. Suppose the boss issues instructions to his subordi-
nate to complete a certain project in a particular manner within a
stipulated timeframe. The subordinate does it to the best of his
ability. However, the end result is a miserable failure because the
manner of completion does not match with the expectations
of the boss. A lot of time has been wasted as a result of
miscommunication on the part of the two members of the
2. Self Andsociety
same organization. In fact, more first instance. If the amount
Messages are formed in the mind of one individual and
of time used in completion of this particular task is calculated,
interpreted in the mind of another. Yet the formation and
it would be seen that double the time necessary has been taken.
interpretation of messages are affected by the groups to which
The example cited above is one of the most common and the individuals belong. Thus, a complete understanding of
prevailing examples of miscommunication resulting from a lack human communication must take into account both human
of feedback in organizations. This, however, is not the only psychology and human social interaction.
criterion that qualifies for an in-depth study of communication.
Let us take a look at the communicative competence required at
three different levels in an organization.
In the business situation of a manager, as he goes higher up in
the hierarchy is to coordinate, issue instructions, collate
information, and then present it. All these activities require
effective communication skills the sooner these skills are honed,
the easier it is for the manager to accomplish tasks. Similar is the
case of the junior manager vying for a quick promotion. As
3. Information
work in the organization is always done in conjunction with
To receive messages human beings must make use of their
other people, effective communication skills become a necessity.
senses. However, the senses continually process large volumes
Let us compare the progression of two junior managers up the
of data, not all of which are the result of communication. It is
ladder of success possessing almost the same academic
the human ability to discern, recognize, and remember patterns
qualifications and almost similar personality traits. Only one of
in this constant flow of data that makes meaningful communi-
them would be able to make it to the managing Director’s chair.
cation possible.
Without doubt it would be the candidate with excellent
communication skills.
Prior to entry in any organization, certain communicative abilities
are also looked for in candidates. Ability to speak, conduct
oneself properly in an interview, get along with others, listen
carefully and accurately, make effective presentations, prepare good
yet brief report, make proposals, sell ideas, convince and persuade
others are some of the attributes looked for in a candidate. If an
individual possesses these attributes looked for in a candidate. If
an individual possesses these attributes or can train himself to 4. Signs And Language
excel in them, he himself would realize how much easier it is for Some patterns of data bring to mind memories of previous
him only to secure a comfortable position in an organization but patterns. These “signs,” as they are called, can be assembled into
also to achieve success. large, powerful patterns called “languages.” Much (though
certainly not all) of human communication is carried on
through the use of language.

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A “system” is typically described as a collection of parts which
are interconnected, or related to, one another and which also
relate to the environment which surrounds the system. In the
picture below, the circles and rectangles represent the parts, the
solid lines represent the relationships among the parts, and the
arrows show the system’s interaction with its environment.

5. Interaction And Relationships

In face-to-face situations human beings cannot avoid commu-
nicating with one another. This “interpersonal”
communication, which involves processes such as “speech” and
“body language,” plays an important role in the formation,
development, and dissolution of human relationships.

To say that the elements of a system are interconnected implies

that if something happens to change one part, then at least one
other part must change, too. Naturally, as soon as that second
part changes, some other part must then change ... and so on.
This is somewhat like the effect of touching a bowl of gelatin -
6. Mass Communication a single touch results in a long period of jiggling motion.
Approximately five hundred years ago a new form of commu- Because systems interact with their environments, they are
nication arose. This “mass” communication process, which constantly being “touched” from the outside. This means that
makes use of permanent text that can be made available to most systems are constantly changing, and, because these
millions of people at the same time, has quickly become an changes take time, a system cannot be described as having one
important factor in the lives of many human beings. particular shape. It is this property that makes systems useful
for studying the kinds of situations that scholars usually refer
to as events, or processes.
The idea of a system is well illustrated by the device called a
“mobile.” The parts of this system, or objects, as they are often
called, are represented in the illustration below as “fishes.” The
relationships are established by the bars, which maintain a
horizontal spacing among the fish, and the pieces of string,
which keep the fish at certain vertical depths.
7. The Communication Environment
Human communication takes place within, and cannot be
separated from, the complex social environments within which
all communicators must live. Systems of belief, technological
media, and the presence of cultural artifacts all affect the
communication process and contribute to the development of
the human social reality.

Notice that the strings and bars

• Connect every fish with every other fish,
• Allow the fish to move around quite a bit, yet confine them
Communication: a system for sending and receiving messages.
to a certain area and keep them from falling apart.
An investigation of this statement will lead first to the idea of a
This is a fine example of how a system works. If any one fish
system, and then to the idea of messages.
moves, at least one other fish will react by moving, too. Thus,
the smallest breeze will keep the mobile in constant motion.

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The following quotation by Stephen Littlejohn provides a more Communication Connects

formal definition of the term “system” . But communication is not merely passive connection. Rather,
From the simplest perspective, a system can be said to consist communication is the process of connecting. It is a collection of
of four things. renewable actions that work throughout space and over time to
form relationships among objects.
• The first is objects. The objects are the parts, elements, or
variables of the system. These objects may be physical or Communication is not an object itself; it is not a thing, and this
abstract or both, depending on the nature of the system. leads to a second insight into the nature of communication.
• Second, a system consists of attributes, or the qualities or Communication Happens
properties of the system and its objects. This is an important observation. It implies that communica-
• Third, a system must possess internal relationships among tion can never fully be understand by looking only at “things.”
its objects. This characteristic is a crucial defining quality of To understand communication, we must also look at the
systems. A relationship among objects implies a mutual relationships among the “things” and at the environments in
effect (interdependence) and constraint. which the “things” reside.
• Fourth, systems also possess an environment. They do not For example, consider some common communication
exist in a vacuum but are affected by their surroundings. “things”:
Clearly, the “fish” mobile meets these requirements. • A paperback copy of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol,
• A video tape of the CNN 6:00 news broadcast on May 5th,
• A written invitation to attend my sister’s wedding.
In each case the thing - the actual book, the actual video tape,
the actual invitation - is not the communication.
• The communication is the process that connects the readers
of the book to the story told by the author.
• The communication is the process that connects the watchers
It is important to do the following exercise. Thinking about of the broadcast to the events of the day.
systems in this way is the most effective way to understand • The communication is the process that connects my sister
them. and I via the announcement of her wedding.
Consider each of the three systems named here and try to: True, the book, the tape and the invitation are a part of the
• Name some of the objects that make up the system, communication process, but they are only a part.
• Name some of the relationships among the objects, There are additional observations to be drawn from these
• Describe the environment of the system, and examples.
• Describe ways in which the system is constantly changing. • Communication always happens between or among - it takes
at least two to communicate.
Three Systems
Your body’s nervous system, • Communication involves an exchange - of electrical signals,
of sounds, words, pages of print, or whatever.
The legal system of the United States,
For ease, these exchanges among communicators will be given
The U. S. Interstate Highway system.
the general name: messages.
The Role of Communication Notice, for example, that each of the previous set of examples
Notice that these example systems have communication in contained sender and a receiver and a message. The book was
common. written by its author to be read by its audience. The video tape
• The nervous system carries messages from the nerve endings was produced by one group of people to be watched by
in our extremities to our brains and back. another. And the invitation is a message sent from my sister to
• The legal system includes thousands of individuals talking me.
to one another, laws being read and interpreted, forms being The idea of “messages” is considered at length in these
filled out, and so on. tutorials. At this point, however, it is appropriate to reiterate the
• The highway system requires constant communication two basic rules that have just been uncovered:
among drivers - turn signals, brake lights, and so on - and 1. Communication is a process that happens among and acts to
between drivers and their vehicles - as, for example, when connect communicators through space and over time.
you “tell” your car to turn left by pulling on the steering 2. Communication involves the creation, transmission, and
wheel. reception of messages.
In fact, it might be said that communication is the “glue” that
holds a system together. This gives insight into the nature of
communication itself, to wit:

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That’s Just What I Mean! barriers are filters that we use to decide what is useful for us. No

Most problems arise because people cannot sustain one can completely avoid these filters. If you start taking every
effective communication. Cultivating the art of listening information and message you get seriously, you would be
helps to build bridges and enhance relationships, says overloaded with information. But if you are not consciously
Santosh BabuAll happy families resemble one another, each aware of this filtering process, you may lose a lot of valuable
unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Thus begins Leo information. A way to overcome these filters when you want is
Tolstoy’s epic Anna Karenina. What he meant, perhaps, is that through active listening and feedback.
communication is complete when the mind is happy and
Active Listening
uninhibited, and distortion creeps in when the mood is sullen
All of us can hear, but all of us cannot listen. Hearing and
and sad. Most problems in an organization, family or group are
listening are not the same thing. Hearing is involuntary and
the result of people failing to communicate. Haven’t you often
listening involves the reception and interpretation of what is
said “You don’t understand what I say” or words to that effect?
heard. It decodes the sound heard into meaning. Does a knock
Communication is the exchange or flow of information and
on the door sound the same all the time? What if you are alone
ideas between one person and another. Technically, it involves a
and you hear a knock at late night? What happens when you
sender passing on an idea to a receiver. Effective communication
hear a knock while you are expecting someone whom you like?
occurs when the receiver comprehends the information or idea
People generally speak at 100 to 175 words per minute but we
that the sender intends to convey. What does a communication
can listen intelligently at 600 to 800 words per minute. This
process involve? You have an idea that you need to communi-
means most of the time only a part of our mind is paying
cate, and a message is sent to the receiver, either verbally or
attention, it is easy for the attention to drift. This happens to all
non-verbally. The receiver then translates the words or nonver-
of us. The cure: active listening. This involves listening with a
bal gestures into a concept or information. Let’s take, for
purpose. It may be to gain information, obtain directions,
example, this message: “You are very intelligent.” Would this
understand others, solve problems, share interests, see how the
message carry the same meaning to the receiver every time you
other person feels, even show support. This type of listening
voice these words? The success of the transmission depends on
takes the same amount of or more energy than speaking. This
two factors—content and context. Content is the actual words
requires the listener to hear various messages, understand the
or symbols that constitutes a part of the message, known as
meaning and then verify the meaning by offering feedback. Here
language. It could be either spoken or written. We all interpret
are some of the traits of an active listener:
words in our own ways, so much so that even simple messages
could be understood differently. • Does not finish the sentence of others.
• Does not answer questions with questions.
Context is the way the message is delivered-the tone, expression
in the sender’s eyes, body language, hand gestures, and state of • Is aware of biases. We all have them... we need to control
emotion (anger, fear, uncertainty, confidence and so on). As we them.
believe what we see more than what we hear, we trust the • Never daydreams or becomes preoccupied with one’s own
accuracy of nonverbal behavior more than verbal behavior. So thoughts when others talk.
when we communicate, the other person notices two things: • Lets others talk.
What we say and how we say it. Normally we think communica-
• Does not dominate the conversation.
tion is complete once we have conveyed the message: “I don’t
know why it was not done. I had asked him to do it.” Chances • Plans responses after the other persons have finished
are that the message was not perceived properly. A message speaking, not while they are speaking.
hasn’t been communicated successfully unless the receiver • Provides feedback, but does not interrupt incessantly.
understands it completely. How do you know it has been • Analyses by looking at all the relevant factors and asking
properly received? By two-way communication or feedback. open-ended questions.
Communication Barriers Ourselves • Keeps the conversation on what the speaker says...not on
Focusing on ourselves, rather than the other person can lead to what interests them.
confusion and conflict. Often, we are thinking about our • Takes brief notes. This forces one to concentrate on what is
response, rather than focusing on what the other person is being said.
saying. Some other factors that cause this are defensiveness (we
feel someone is attacking us), superiority (we feel we know Feedback
more than the other), and ego (we feel we are the center of the This is done by restating the other person’s message in your
activity). Perception: If we feel the person is talking too fast, own words. It helps to make sure that you understood the
not fluently or does not articulate clearly, we may dismiss the message correctly. How much better daily communication
person. Our preconceived attitudes affect our ability to listen. would be if listeners tried to understand before they tried to
We listen uncritically to persons of high status and dismiss evaluate what someone is saying! Let’s do a test of your
those of low status. Mental state: People don’t see things the listening ability. Get a paper and pen. You have two minutes to
same way when under stress. What we see and believe at a given do this. If you take more time, you need to improve your
moment is influenced by our psychological frames of refer- listening skills. Read all the instructions below before doing
ences-beliefs, values, knowledge, experiences and goals. These anything.

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• Write your name in the top right corner of the paper

• Draw five small squares in the top left corner
• Put a circle around each square
• Put an X on the lower left-hand corner
• Draw a triangle around the X you just made
• Sign your name at the bottom of the page
• On the back of your page multiply 70 x 30
• Write the answer to the above problem adjacent to your
• Check whether you have done all the above correctly Now
that you have finished reading carefully, do only the first
instruction. The author is a Delhi-based personal growth

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