The Five Components of a Communication Model
A basic communication model consists of five components: the sender and receiver, the medium that carries the message, contextual factors, the message itself, and feedback. To target your messages effectively, you need to consider the variables that can affect each of the components in the model.
Sender and receiver
Certain factors can complicate communication between a sender and receiver:
- Different beliefs, values, and personalities influence the way the sender and receiver perceive information. So senders and receivers may have different reactions to the same information.
- Various barriers to communication prevent a sender's message from being understood as intended. Examples include bad grammar and word choice, and the nature of the relationship between the sender and receiver.
You communicate through speech in a face-to-face conversation, as well as through e-mail, an instant message, a telephone call, or a written letter. To choose the right medium, you should consider several factors:
- importance of the message – Generally, you should deliver really important messages face-to-face or over the phone. This makes more impact and enables the receiver to respond immediately. E-mail is suitable for less important messages, or those to which you don't need an urgent response. Instant messaging is best used for casual messages.
- practicality – When senders and receivers are geographically dispersed, using telecommunications media – such as the phone, e-mail, and instant messaging – is more practical than arranging face-to-face meetings. Also, it's more practical to use a text-based medium like e-mail if you need to send someone a lot of data or to keep a record of what's discussed. Other practical considerations are the costs, physical space requirements, and potential delays associated with using different communication media.
- your and the receiver's preferences – Some people just prefer certain media over others. To communicate effectively, you should consider the other party's preference. Sometimes this may also be influenced by the established communication processes in the person's organization.
- receiver's communication style – Some people respond best to information that's presented visually. Others rely more on what they hear, or on information that's text-based. And some learn best by doing – building models or putting ideas into practice. In trying to choose an effective medium, you should consider the preferred communication style of the receiver. You should also consider the receiver's willingness to receive your message. For example, it's better to communicate sensitive information, rather than via e-mail.
- need for feedback – If you need feedback from the receiver without delay, you should choose a medium that allows this – like a face-to-face meeting or a phone call. If the need for feedback is less urgent, a medium like e-mail might be appropriate. If you don't require feedback at all, you can opt for a less personal medium that doesn't support two-way communication.
Various contextual factors can play a role in how well a sender and receiver of a message communicate:
- body language – Body language refers to all the nonverbal ways people communicate, including facial expressions, physical gestures, and posture. In face-to-face conversations, these play an important role. They often communicate things that are left unsaid – such as a person's enthusiasm, attentiveness, or even annoyance. When you're speaking to someone, it's important to ensure your body language is appropriate. It's also important to read the other person's body language so you can respond to it.
- timing – The timing of a message can influence how well or badly it's received. It's also best to time messages for when you know the receiver has time to attend to them properly.
- environment – Factors like the formality or informality of a setting, noise in the surroundings, and room temperature can all affect the abilities of a sender and receiver to communicate. Their physical proximity also plays a role.
You also need to consider these contextual factors when you communicate with others:
- the type of language you use for your message
- the assumptions you make when formulating your message
- the willingness of the receiver to engage in dialog about your message, and
- your tone of voice, volume, and the rate at which you speak
Communication can also be distorted by "noise" which is anything that causes a receiver to incorrectly receive the message, including distracting sounds, faulty hearing, mispronunciation, and errors in transferring the message.
A message is defined as the object of communication or the thing that is being communicated. A message may be spoken, written, visual, and physical signals. Some qualities of a message include its wording, directness, and purpose.
Each message has a specific purpose:
- to convey important facts or information
- to persuade the receiver to accept or reject certain conditions or actions
- to motivate the receiver to act in a specific way
- to stimulate discussion about a particular issue, or
- to entertain the receiver
Messages can have many other purposes, like instructing, warning, greeting, or requesting information. For a message to be effective, you should know exactly why you plan to send it.
Feedback is any response to a communicated message. It takes the form of a message itself, and may be verbal, visual, or written. Often, feedback is essential, because it's what turns one-way communication into two-way communication. Feedback may be positive or negative:
- Positive feedback indicates the receiver has received and understood the message.
- Negative feedback indicates that the receiver either has not received the message or has not understood its content
Feedback is important during communication because it helps the sender to make any necessary adjustments so that the message is correctly received. Feedback is also important after you've delivered a message. It enables further clarification or discussion.
A basic communication model consists of five components: the sender and receiver, the medium, contextual factors, the message, and feedback. Because each component is affected by many variables and varies across situations, it's essential that communicators take the time and effort to plan and target their messages carefully.
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