The Definition of Communication
In researching several relevant books in my library for the best definition of communication, I did not find one direct answer. Most described it in terms of the language, the process, the influence, etc.
The best definition I came across is the following:
Communication: "the act of transmitting. A giving or exchanging of information, signals, or messages by talk, gestures, writing, etc. To make known. To give information, messages. To have a systematic and meaningful relationship. A system for sending and receiving messages as by telephone, telegraph, radio, etc... A system as of routes for moving one place to another. The art of expressing ideas, esp. in speech and writing." (Websters New World Dictionary).
The Dictionary of Psychology by J. P. Chaplin also describes it as “a process of transmitting or receiving signals or messages.”
Thus in short, the definition of communication is: A system for sending and receiving messages.
This can be applied to human communication within personal, business and technology.
Because communication is a system for sending and receiving, it therefore requires a Sender and a Receiver. In business, it is a seller and a buyer, a consultant and a client, an employer and an employee, a supervisor and a worker or staff member. At home or in our personal lives it is one family member to another or one friend to another.
Within the definition of communication, there is also a verbal, vocal and nonverbal part of communication. Experts tell us that of the total impact of a presentation, only seven percent is determined by the words we use (verbal); thirty-eight percent by the tone of our voice (vocal), and a fifty-five percent comes from nonverbal cues.
In nonverbal communication, people don't even need to be conscious of sending a message. This may take place by means of facial expressions, head movements, body positions, acts and gestures, tones of voice, clothing, dress appearance and even odor!
Saying one thing while doing another is a powerful nonverbal communication. The supervisor tells the subordinate "always return to your original working file after saving a back up copy of your work", yet the supervisor doesn't do it; or management agrees with an employee's request to have staff meetings but does not implement them, etc.
In one company the manager gave a deadline for the production staff to come out with catalogs. Yet, that same manager held up the production by not providing the necessary input on time. This type of sloppy communication sends mixed messages and confusions. These inconsistencies speak louder than words.
In other instances, supervisors or senior personnel use their authority to take off early or carry on long personal conversations on the phone. The rest of the staff can't say anything and are supposed to ignore it and live with it; they don't want to create bad feelings and difficulties for themselves, but it bothers them and affects their attitudes. Again, this sends the wrong messages to the team.
These examples create bad relationships, frustrations and low morale. The worst part is that top management doesn't know it goes on. These supervisors are all nice and diplomatic in the presence of management, but they carry on devastatingly in their own departments.
In a training organization that specialized in providing management excellence to corporations, the office manager used to rave and rant when a staff member made a mistake in data entry, banging on the desk with her fist, yelling and swearing. In front of the management group she was as smooth and professional as you could expect anyone to be.
As leaders, how can we use communication more effectively? By remembering the definition of communication as being a system for sending and receiving that involves a sender and a receiver with equal responsibilities.
And armed with that, by applying workable concepts that create the environment to both talk (when we're the sender) and listen (when we're the receiver)to the staff.
It has become popular in many companies to use "Feedback" forms that employees are asked to send to their co-workers.
However, people are not going to write on them such situations as described above. No one is going to put down on these forms the negative experiences they tolerate from their supervisors/managers or their peers. It takes more than just forms. It takes personal and deliberate open communication.
And these same examples apply at home also within the daily definition of communication, activities and encounters of family members -- between a father and a mother, a parent and a child, a brother and a sister, an uncle or aunt and a nephew or niece, a grand-parent and a grand-child, etc…
It takes willingness and effort to improve communication. Again, the first thing to know is the definition of communication and the understanding of what it is and how it works. Then that knowledge must be applied – every day.
The typical rewards will be 50-100% improvement in areas of greater efficiency, less misunderstandings, better relationships, better environments, happier employees, higher morale, happier customers, better productivity, better corporate and personal results. Who doesn't want that?
In one of his Personal Power tapes, Anthony Robbins names 7 character traits that are imperative to success. One of them is "Develop Communication Skills". "Develop" is the key word.
It has to be developed by each one of us within that definition of communication as a system for sending and receiving messages by both an engaged sender and a receiver. /dmh
Diane M. Hoffmann is owner/manager of Hoffmann-Rondeau Communications, which offers ONline and OFFline business services and resources. She is the founder and creator of this web site http://business-resources-hrc.blogspot.com and author of several books, e-books and articles, including "Contextual Communication, Organization and Training". Copyright(c)2009-2011 Diane M. Hoffmann. You may reprint this article without any changes, making sure to include this bio.