Basic Principles of Communication

1. Introduction

It is really hard to imagine a world and life without any communication. Whether sitting in office premises, visiting any bank or shop or doctor or any other public place, at home, etc; everywhere we all exchange information, thoughts in a way or another on daily basis with different people.

This exchange of thoughts or information to convey different messages by using the verbal, written or non-verbal medium is known as Communication. This is a fundamental requirement for the existence and survival of human beings and organizations. Communication is a well-defined process of sharing different information, ideas, feelings, etc. between two or a group of people. The purpose of this process is to arrive at a common understanding. The information can be exchanged through different verbal and non-verbal platforms like speech, writing, signals, etc. Communication is considered as the heart of professional and personal or social life.

Only communicating is not enough. There should be effective communication which is the result of getting the desired response by sharing information between people accurately. In organizational and management context, effective communication by people at managerial positions is essential to coordinate, manage, and supervise their team efficiently.

For example, most of the entrance exams for higher studies consist of Group discussions and participants who can communicate their views effectively on a given topic can get success.

The communication process usually comprises a two-way communication which includes both giving and receiving information and signals between people. Once the given message of the sender is received, understood by a receiver and also sender’s desired feedback is sent by the receiver then this communication process gets completed. So, the process involves more than one person and a continuous flow of information.

2. Understanding Communication

Communication can better be understood through its basic elements, principles, and types.

A) Elements of Communication

There are 4 main elements of communication i.e.

  • Message: The actual content or information that is being communicated is termed as a message.
  • Source/ Sender: Source or sender is the one who sends the message or information to another person.
  • Medium/ channel: A system or the means to transfer information or message between the sender and receiver.
  • Receiver: As the term indicated, the receiver is the one who receives messages or information transmitted by the sender.

The communication between people continues by using the above elements. The sender encodes the message into different mediums like verbal, non-verbal or written, etc., and forwards it to the receiver using appropriate communication channel i.e. electronically or print media, etc. Further, the receiver decodes the message and sends feedback to the sender.

For example, communicating over phones or face to face conversations are mediums of oral communication while mediums like newspapers, e-mails, reports, letters, etc. are meant for written communication.

B) Basic Principles of Communication Process

Principles consist of the validated guidelines that are used in performing different tasks or functions to achieve pre-defined goals. To make communication effective, few principles or guidelines of communication are defined that should be followed. One can covey his/her message in a more precise form if the communication is clear and effective. The same applies to an organization or business point to view. Below are the basic principles of communication that are also known as 7 C’s of communication:

1. Principle of Conciseness

The principle of Conciseness states that the message should be conveyed in concise form i.e. in the best shortest possible way. In other words, the message or information should be articulated completely in such a way that it is forwarded to the desired audience or receivers in fewer words or signals. By following this principle, individuals and organizations can save time and cost as well. It also helps in a much better understanding of the message by excluding unnecessary and excessive parts of the message. This way, it is more convenient to understand the concise message by the receiver as well.

Example: Writing an e-mail to different clients to invite for an organization’s annual day celebration function requires a more concise e-mail message. Concise e-mail carrying information about venue, date & time followed by a brief itinerary of function is much clearer than describing everything of celebration in a subjective way.

2. Principle of Clarity

While communicating, clarity or clear communication is also an important aspect for individuals and in business communication. By following the clarity principle of communication, one can focus on a specific message at a time. So, the message that is being conveyed must be clear. It also helps the receiver to easily understand the given message or idea. Due to clarity, there is much appropriate and exact message transmission. Clarity should be there while communicating through verbal words or in writing.

Example: While giving a presentation on a particular topic, the presentation should cover the material related to the presentation topic, also voice tone and words should be clear that is easily understandable to the audience.

3. Principle of Correctness

One can better understand or interpret the more accurate message. The guidelines for correct or accurate communication are covered under the principle of correctness. If the message is correct then its impact is also great and it also boosts the confidence of the sender. So, the correct use of language is essential in effective communication and it also increases the trust factor between the sender and receiver.

Example: While writing e-mails or business communication letters, the correct use of language should be their i.e. grammatical errors or wrong verbs need to be avoided.

4. Principle of Concreteness

The clear and particular message is defined as a concrete message. The concreteness principle of communication states that while communicating, the message should be to the point or specific, definite, and clear instead of being general or unclear. Concrete communication includes facts and figures to strengthen the message or idea. As the message is clear and specific, there are minimal or zero chances of misinterpretation of the message.

Example: In sales meetings in organizations, communicating the message of quarterly or annual sales results by sales personnel consists of sales presentations that include different facts and figures of sales. This communication is based on the concrete principle of communication.

5. Principle of Completeness

The next principle of communication states that communication should be complete to be effective. A message is said to be complete when the recipients of the message receive all the necessary information that they want to be informed. It also consists of a call to action i.e. a statement that is specifically meant for getting instant response from the receiver. The facts and figures in messages are also part of it. The more complex communication sometimes requires additional information or more elaboration so that there is no doubt for the audience or receivers.

Example: Online shopping sites display complete information on different products i.e. fabric, color, measurements, qualities, price, etc. and also call to action features i.e. to instant buy the product by pressing buy now option. So their written communication about product information is an example of complete communication with their audience.

6. Principle of Courteousness

The principle of courteousness states that while communicating, the sender should show respect to the audience or receiver. So, the sender should be polite, enthusiastic, reflective, and sincere. Being courteous is when the sender takes care of own and receiver’s feelings. These messages are focused on the audience, positive, and unbiased.

Example: While communicating with employees for their counseling, HR Head takes a courteous approach by taking care of their feelings, listening to their issues or problems in a polite manner during the counseling session.

7. Principle of Coherence

The communication should be coherent i.e. both consistency and logic should be part of the sender’s message. Without being logical or coherent, the main purpose or idea behind the message can’t be conveyed properly. All terms of the message should be interconnected and relevant to the message being conveyed. Moreover, consistency should be maintained in the communication flow.

Example: When there is a change in any HR policy, the HR Head communicates the changes by sending an e-mail to the staff. This communication consists of the logic of informing the new changes regarding the policy to the staff so that they can work as per new guidelines.

So, the above C’s of basic principles make communication effective.

C) Types of Communication

Communication is mainly of three types i.e. Verbal, Non-verbal, and Written communication. 

1. Verbal Communication

Verbal or oral communication is defined as the flow of message or information between the sender and audience through different verbal mediums like speech or words, presentation, discussion or conversation, etc. The sender expresses his/her thoughts by speaking words. In verbal communication, there is an important role of body language and voice tone in how communication is being perceived. The verbal communication ensures both message transmission and its receipt simultaneously and also instant feedback from the receiver.  

From an organization’s point of view, oral communication happens through discussions, presentations, meetings, etc. Elements like the sender’s tone and pitch of voice, word quality are crucial to verbal communication. For effective verbal communication through presentations or speeches, the speaker or sender of a message should speak loudly and clearly. Also, the content should be conveyed properly. Unclear or unorganized ideas or messages can create misunderstandings or confusion among the audience. The sender has to ensure the required response from the receiver once a verbal message is transmitted.

Example: A very simple example of verbal communication is when two or more people chat with each other using words. Question and answer sessions using words in classrooms or during training in organizations is also a type of verbal communication.

2. Written Communication

The process of transmitting messages or information in the written form of words is known as written communication. The medium of this communication in organizations are memos, reports, letters, circulars, documents, emails, etc. It is considered as an effective communication tool of business which is less flexible. This communication type is useful in case of complex and lengthy messages or information that is a bit difficult to explain verbally. Documents that are written are useful for future reference.

Effective written communication takes place when it includes above mentioned 7 C’s of communication. The feedback in this type of communication is not instant as it requires time to understand it.

Example: Sales reports can be considered as an illustration of written communication. These reports consist of all necessary information and data related to sales figures, sales analysis, etc. as per business verticals and locations. This can be complex and huge sales reports presented in excel sheets or any other data software.

3. Non-Verbal Communication

Exchange of thoughts, feelings, emotions, etc. through non-verbal means is considered as Non-verbal communication. The non-verbal means can be body movements or postures, eye contact, facial expressions, gestures, touch and use of space, etc. All these are broadly categorized as body-language.

 

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Non-verbal communication is a speechless communication in which expressions are used to communicate or express rather than words. There are different elements of non-verbal communication i.e.

  • Facial expressions:  It includes communication using different expressions of the face like sadness, happiness, anger, fear, surprise, disgust, etc.
  • Body movement and posture: This includes body movements and postures i.e. the way people move, sit, walk, stand, etc. also it communicates a lot of information.
  • Gestures: Communicating through gestures includes the use of hands in different ways i.e. pointing out, waving, etc.
  • Eye contact: Another non-verbal communication element is making eye-contact with people. The way of looking someone shows communication of different aspects like affection, attraction, interest, etc. To continue the conversation by maintaining the interest and response of another person, also require eye contact features.
  • Touch: We communicate through different ways by touch like warm handshake and hug, a gentle pat on the back, etc.
  • Space: Physical space is also a type of non-verbal communication to transmit different messages like affection, dominance, aggression, etc.

Examples of non-verbal communication:

  • While sitting in job interviews, our non-verbal communication plays a great impact on interview selection. Crossing arms or not making eye contact by the candidate during the interview communicates a message of disinterest or arrogant behavior to the interviewer.
  • While giving a presentation to a group of people, maintaining eye contact with only a few or just one person communicates poor presentation skills or less confidence in the presenter.

Apart from verbal, written, non-verbal communication, there are different other categories of communication as well that include:

4. Electronic CommunicationRelated imageWhen the transmission of a message between the sender and receiver is through electronic or digital technologies, then it’s said to be electronic communication. We can convey both verbal and written communication in electronic form. Different mediums of verbal electronic communications can be phone, web conferencing, etc. while e-mails, text messages are meant for written communication.

5. Visual Communication

We also communicate by visualizing things like through signboards, hoardings, banners, maps, pictures, etc. Through these modes of visual communication, a recipient receives information.

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Example: While planning for a tour one can get details about the tour place through maps like a route to reach, hotels, shopping areas, etc. So the map is the medium by which one can get information about the place. Similarly, different sign boards like signboards for different restaurants, education centers, etc. give information about that particular place which is a form of visual communication.

6. Formal Communication

Formal communication happens when information is exchanged at an organizational level i.e. between employees and management, a superior and a subordinate or between same rank colleagues, etc. In this time of communication, the flaw of information is balanced and controlled by the organization hierarchy. Due to proper control, the information can be delivered at the desired place without breaking the flow. Formal communication includes both verbal and written communication.

Example: Formal meetings or presentations, formal e-mails in offices are a few examples of this type of communication.

Formal communication is further categorized as Vertical and Horizontal communication.

7. Informal Communication

Informal communication takes place when transmission of a message between the sender and receiver is without any formal communication medium or channel. This type of communication is useful for the rapid distribution of information. Side effects of such communication can be in the form of gossips or rumors.

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3. The Communication Process

The communication process is defined as the transferring of the message or information from the sender to the receiver by using a defined channel of communication and by overcoming communication barriers. The process is in cyclic form as it starts with sending a message by the sender and ends at the sender only in the form of receiving the feedback. This process cycle happens throughout the organization i.e. both upward and downward. The communication process is a continuous process and it gets affected by many variables. The process involves 7 different stages that are essential for effective communication.

These stages are as mentioned below:

A. Steps in Communication Process

  • SENDER OR SOURCE: The first stage of the communication process is its Source/ sender i.e. the person who is conveying a message or information. The sender initiates the message to communicate with the receiver.
  • MESSAGE: The Message refers to the idea or thought or information that a sender wants to communicate with other people. The message can be in any form i.e. oral, written, and non-verbal i.e. in symbols, pictures, gestures, presentations, words, etc. The message is the main component of communication. For example, when people chat through words then it is an oral message. Similarly, writing e-mails is an example of a written message and while playing dumb charade game, conveying a message through gestures without speaking a single word, is a non-verbal message.
  • ENCODING: Once a message or information is generated by the sender, he/she encodes it in the best possible manner so that the receiver can understand it properly. This possible manner can be in the form of symbols, words, pictures or any other means of communication.  In the absence of right and appropriate encoding, the real intent of the communication process may hamper.
  • CHANNEL: Channel is the medium or the mode by which a message or information transmitted by the sender flows further. It is a link between the sender and receiver as the message being conveyed to the receiver; transmits through an appropriate channel. This medium can be the phone, written letters, gestures, etc. The right choice of channel to transmit the message is crucial to the communication process.
  • RECEIVER: A receiver is a person or group of people, who are going to receive the message or information sent by the sender. The form of receiving the message by the receiver can be hearing or seeing or feeling, etc.
  • DECODING: Converting or interpreting the received message by the receiver to understand it is termed as Decoding. Decoding of message much depends on the receiver’s knowledge of the message, mutual understanding between the sender and receiver. Communication is said to be effective when both parties interpret the same meanings to the message.
  • FEEDBACK: Feedback is the response that the receiver forwards to the sender after receiving and decoding the message sent by the sender. It ensures that the message has been effectively communicated by encoding, decoding.

Benefits of feedback include:

  • Facilitates in enhancing communication effectiveness
  • Ensures that the message has been properly understood by the receiver.

The feedback analysis also helps in improving the future communication of messages.

B. Communication Process Model

The model of the communication process is as below:

C. Example of Communication Process

The communication process can better be understood by the following example:

A Sales Trainer wants to impart training to the sales team on the ‘qualities of a good salesperson’ topic. He/she follows the communication process as described below:

  • Sender: Here sender is the sales trainer who is going to transmit information to his/ her audience.
  • Message: The message or information that the Sales trainer (sender) is going to transmit is related to the qualities of a good salesperson.
  • Encoding: Encoding states that the sender converts the message into the form that is understandable to the receiver. So, sales trainer (sender) transforms the information or message i.e. qualities of a good salesperson into a form of the communicable message by using symbols, pictures, words, etc to define different qualities of a salesperson in different situations.
  • Channel: For effective communication with the audience, the trainer uses different channels like presentation through projector, diagrams or images with sound i.e. audio-visual channel.
  • Receiver: A receiver in the training is the audience who is going to receive the information i.e. sales team.
  • Decoding: Once message or information is received by the audience then they do the decoding of the message. In this example, after gaining insights into qualities of a good salesperson, they understand the importance of these qualities and how to incorporate these in themselves for better selling and to increase their sales performance.
  • Feedback: Once the training session is over, the trainer will circulate feedback form to the audience or receivers of the information. The audience will fill that form about the effectiveness of the training session and how they are going to incorporate that particular training into their selling skills. This feedback (either positive or negative) further transmits to the sender i.e. Trainer and this ends the communication process.

4. Barriers to Communication

A barrier in communication is a blockage or hindrance that prevents to transmit the intended meaning of the message to the receiver or group of receivers.

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Different types of barriers are defined below:

1. The barrier of language:

The language barrier creates hurdles in effective communication. There are different languages of different regions within a country or in different countries. In the workplace also, different people have different languages. This can affect the communication channel in the organization. So, while communicating with the workforce, different considerations have to be taken care of.

For example, few people are good at communicating in the English language while few of them are not comfortable with that. So while communicating a large audience where the majority of people are not proficient in a particular language, this barrier may limit effective communication if not handled properly.

2. Barriers related to psychological factors:

Different psychological factors may also create hurdles to effective communication. The mental condition of the communicator influences effective communication a lot. A disturbed state of mind can disturb the communication.

For example, people having psychological issues like depression, stage fear, lack of attention, past-experiences, low-confidence, values, and beliefs, etc. may create certain limits in effective communication if not handled.  

3. The Barrier of emotional factors:

A person with a high emotional quotient (EQ) can communicate in a much effective way rather than a person having low or average EQ. An emotionally balanced or mature person can communicate with ease and comfort. While people who are unable to handle their emotions, usually face different obstacles while communicating. So, the right mix of emotion is required for effective communication.

For example, different emotional states like anger, sadness, frustration, etc. can adversely affect communication by lowering down decision-making capability.

4. Physical barrier:

Different environment or natural barriers in communication are considered as physical barriers.  It can be noise or distance or equipment, etc.

For example, an environmental barrier may be a bad weather condition while communicating.  In bad weather conditions, people may not be able to pay full attention during communication. Similarly, physical barrier like the distance between sitting areas of the workforce is much and equipments of communication are not working well like phones, etc, then also it is a bit difficult to communicate effectively.

5. The Barrier of cultural differences:

In today’s era of globalization, different organizations are hiring people from different places in the world. The workforce from different countries has different cultures, values, behavior patterns, opinions, body language, etc. The way people behave and think also depends on the culture from which they belong to. So while communicating, consideration of different cultures is required. While communicating, these cultural factors can become hurdles.

For example, in western culture or countries, a warm hand-shake is considered as part of greetings when people meet and communicate. But in different Arab countries, handshaking is considered as bad manners or crime while communicating.

6. Organizational Barriers:

The obstacles in the flow of information among the workforce in an organization that can create serious loss are considered as Organization level barriers. These may occur due to misleading information or message and lack of transparency. Different organizational barriers can be related to rules and policies, hierarchy levels or complex organization structure, facilities in the organization, etc.

For example, if there are lots of management levels in the organization then the communication may be affected i.e. there may be a delay in receiving message or change in the appropriate meaning of message at the time of receiving by the receiver. Different strict rules and policies may also become a barrier to effective communication. Like if the policy or rule of an organization consists of the mode or medium of message i.e. through written communication by mails only. In that case, employees have no choice other than communicating in writing even if the oral communication in a particular situation can be better and faster than written.

7. Barriers related to the attitude or behavioral issues:

Different people have different types of attitudes or behavior. Few of them cause ineffective communication. If there is a match between the opinion and attitude of the sender and receiver, then the receiver will accept it favorably. However, in the case of mismatch between attitude and views of both the sender and receiver, then the response of the receiver may not be positive or it may result in conflicts arising. Different people have different personalities like introvert, extrovert, egoistic, judgmental attitude, etc. Sometimes the excessiveness of these traits becomes a hindrance to effective communication.

For example, if policy change in an organization seems to be in favor of an employee then he/she communicates effectively but if it’s not then his/her gives negative feedback on the same. Thus, it creates a barrier to communication.

8. Perceptual Barrier:

Different people have different perceptions of the same message i.e. different people may interpret the same information differently.  Perception barriers may result in false information, false beliefs, and confusion. This ultimately creates ineffective communication.

For example, a new department head of the sales department makes changes in the functioning of the department and communicates the same to the team. This communication may be taken by 2 different team members differently based on their perception. One team member has the perception that change is not good, so he/she may react to this change negatively and this creates a barrier to effective communication. On the other hand, another team member may take this change positively due to his/her perception that change is always for good.

9. Physiological Barriers:

Different limitations of the body and mind of humans may also create barriers to effective communication.  These limitations can be ill-health, memory issue, stammering problem, lacking in attention, poor eye-sight, hearing problems, etc.

For example, sometimes a person sitting in a meeting is not able to answer queries of other people due to lack of attention caused by personal issues or problems. This is the type of Physiological barrier that results in ineffective communication.

10. Barriers related to Technology:

Technical barriers are there as there is a lot of advancement in technology. Sometimes these technologies may not produce effective communication.

For example, E-mail communication is an effective written and electronic communication, still while communicating through the mail system, the interpretation of the message by the receiver may be different from the sender due to limitations of the technology of not visualizing the communication. As in result, it becomes a barrier to effective communication.

5. Importance of Communication in the Workplace

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Workplace communication is the transmission of information or message between workforces in an organization and an important aspect of an organization. It helps organizations to operate their businesses effectively. Effective communication at the workplace also facilitates raising morale, productivity, and accountability of employees. In the absence of workforce communication in an organization, different adverse effects can be there like high employee turnover, the decline in productivity, resource wastage, etc. Effective communication plays an important role in controlling these. Below are the advantages or importance of communication in the workplace:

1. Enhances Team-building: Effective communication at the workplace helps in developing strong teams. While communicating with each other, the staff shares their ideas and disburses their duties by collaborating and this enhances the team spirit. Workplace communication also helps in keeping employees morale high by making all team members equally important in the workplace. This ultimately increases team spirit and a positive attitude among employees.

2. Growth Booster: Effective workplace communication enhances business growth by increasing workplace productivity, optimum utilization of resources, etc.

3. Enhances innovation and creativity: Without workplace communication, employees or the workforce won’t be able to communicate or present their ideas and this hampers the creativity and growth of employees. So, effective communication at the workplace among workforces encourages creative and innovative ideas.

4. Boosts Productivity: If the workforce can communicate effectively and also the supervisor communicates properly with the team then it helps in increasing their work efficiency in completing the assigned projects in less time. This ultimately helps in increasing productivity.

5. Increases efficiency: Poor communication compromises efficiency, as well as the overall quality of work. When instructions aren’t provided clearly, mistakes are bound to happen. On the other hand, clear instructions eliminate the need to clarify and correct any issues.

6. Boosts Loyalty: Effective and continuous workplace communication also helps in making staff loyal to the organization. Communication allows staff to discuss their professional and personal issues with their seniors comfortably and creates a trust factor among the workforce. Thus employees become more loyal to the organization.

7. Fewer workplace conflicts: Communication in the workforce helps in preventing or resolving different conflicts at the workplace by eliminating misunderstandings or differences of thoughts, working styles between different employees. Conflicts ant workplace generally arises due to:

  • Misunderstanding: Misunderstanding arises if both communicators have different communication pattern but they feel that the way they are communicating with each other is well enough. This may lead to conflicts.
  • The dissatisfaction of emotional needs: Sometimes people feel that their emotional needs are not being satisfied while communicating with someone. The feel of disrespect or disregard can generate conflicts.

For example, disagreement between employees over a particular issue can be resolved through proper and open communication. If not resolved, it may create hurdles in their work efficiency and productivity.

8. Enhances Employee Engagement: Employees feel more engaged in their work and to each other as a team through effectively communicating with each other. An engaged workforce is much aligned to the organization’s objectives and also motivated towards their own goals or targets. Communication helps in providing much-engaged employees by enabling managers to better understand the requirements of employees,  motivational factors to motivate them, hidden talents and skills of employees, the requirement of better connectivity and relation between co-workers and superior-subordinates to create a positive and healthy work environment for them, etc.

9. Problem solver: Effective communication in the workforce also removes different problems in the workplace. People discuss in an open forum or in meetings to resolve different issues and can sort out the issues by reaching common solutions to problems.

10. Skills enhancement: Clear communication helps in enhancing the skill set of employees by discussing their skill needs with them.

11. Improves client relationship: With effective communication, employees can manage the relationship with clients in a much better way by understanding their needs, resolving any issue or conflicts, making them understand, presenting information to clients in a more innovative way for their fast and positive response, etc.

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