The process of human communication
For over 60,000 years men and women have been communicating. Yet we still feel the need, perhaps more than ever, to find ways to improve these skills.
According to numerous research studies, for your entire life you have spent about 75 per sent of each day engaged in communication. Therefore, you may be wondering why you need to study communication in the first place.
Despite the difficulties inherent in ordinary communication, some researchers are attempting communication with an unnborn child. Laitner’s (1987) work involves teaching babies in the uterus, thus giving them a head start on verbal ability and social skills. Parent’s talk to their children through paper megaphones directed at the mother’s abdomen.
Among other things, communication has been liked to physical well – being. Stewart (1986) indicates that socially isolated people are more likely to die prematurely; divorced men die at double the normal rate from cancer, heart disease, and strokes, five times the normal rate from hypertension, five tiime the normal rate from suicide, seven time the normal rate from cirrhosis of the liver, and ten times the normal rate from tuberculosis. Also, poor communication kills have been found to contribute to coronary heart disease, and the likelihood of
Communication is also closely associated with one’s definition of self. Rosenberg (1979) relates the story of the “wild boy of Aveyron” who was raised by wolves. He developed no identity as a human being until be began to interact with humans. Individuals gain a sense of self-identity by being paid attention to and getting feedback from others. Also, a sense of identity and worth develops from comparing ourselves with others.
Social needs are also satisfied through interaction with others. Haslett (1984) found that infants and children have a strong motivation to communicate, because they recognize that communicating is a means of establishing relationships. The child learns primarily from the mother how to interact and too adapt.
On-the-job communication is constantly cited as one of the most important skills in “getting ahead”. Muchmore and Galvin (1983) found that in a wide range of organizations, specific aspects of communication were indicated as having greatest importance. In the area of “speaking skills” they were: using words understood by others, pronunciation and grammar.
What is human communication?
Human communication is the process of creating a meaning between two or more people.
However the student define this that it is th
Some sanities define the communication as “the sharing of experience”, and to some extent all living organisms can be said to share experience. What makes human communication unique is the superior ability to create and to use symbols, for it is this ability that enables human to “share experiences indirectly and vicariously”.
Human communication is the process of creating a meaning between two or more people.
A model of human communication
Modeling human communications help us to explain the ways in which varies component interacts.
Figure 1.1 is a model of the most basic human communication event; it involves only two people. Initially, we shall call them Communicator 1 (the sender/receiver) and Communicator 2 (the receiver/sender). In actuality, both are sauces of communication, and each originates and receives messages simultaneously. In addition, both parties are simultaneously being influenced by one another in the transaction. Communicator 1 may originate the first message and Communicator 2 may be the first person to perceive the transmitted stimuli, but most of our daily communication activities are spontaneous and relatively unstructured, so that these are overlapping roles.
The transactional view emphasizes that you change as a result of the co
Communicator 1: sender/receiver
Communicator 1 is trying to transmit a message. Both people are simultaneously sending and receiving all the time. Mental capacities are of central importance in the communication process. Inside the human brain are millions of nerve cells that function together to store and utilize knowledge, attitudes, and emotions. We want to know what makes Communicator 1 distinct from any other. Communicator 1’s senses are continually bombarded by a wealth of stimuli from both inside and outside the body. All that he or she knows and experiences comes initially through the senses. Borrowing from computer terminology, we
Messages may be verbal or nonverbal, and they may be intentional or unintentional. Thus four types of messages are possible: (1) intentional verbal, (2) unintentional verbal, (3) intentional nonverbal, and (4) unintentional nonverbal and that they often overlap.
A verbal message is any type of spoken communication that uses one or more words. Most of the communicative stimuli we are conscious of fall within the category of intentional verbal messages; these are the conscious attempts we make to communicate with others through speech and the most unique aspect of human communication is the use of verbal symbols.
Nonverbal messages include all the nonverbal aspects of our behavior: facial expression, posture, tone of voice, hand movements, manner of dress, and so on. In short, they are all the messages we transmit without words or over and above the words we use.
Unintentional nonverbal messages are all those nonverbal aspects of our behavior transmitted without our control. For example, one of the authors once told a student speaker to relax. “I am relaxed,” the student replied in a tight voice, trembling, and speaking over the rattling of a paper he was holding. A problem frequently raised in management classes is that store managers unintentionally communicate anger or impatience to their customers.
Controlling nonverbal messages is a very difficult task. Facial expressions, posture, tone of voice, hand gestures – what some writers have called “body language” – often give us away.
If you are talking on the telephone, the communicative stimuli are the telephone wires. The channels of face-to-face communication are the sensory organs. Although all five senses may receive the stimuli, you rely almost exclusively on three: hearing, sight, and touch. For example, you listen to someone state an argument, or you exchange-knowing glances with a friend, or you put your hand on someone’s shoulder. In addition to the sensory organs, the channels of organizational communication include company newsletters, bulletin boards, and memoranda. In mass communication the primary channels would be newspapers, films, radio, and television.
For example, if there is a large vase of flowers between two people trying to talk across a dinner table, both lose a lot because they are unable to see each other’s faces. They may even find it too unsettling to carry on a conversation without the presence of facial cues. In others words, face-to-face communication is a multichannel experience. Simultaneously, we receive and make use of information from a number of different channels. In general, the more channels being used, the greater the number of communicative stimuli transmitted.
The communication scholar would answer, interference, or noise – that is, anything that distorts the information transmitted to the receiver or distracts him or her from receiving it. In communication theory, ‘”interference” and “noise” are synonymous terms. “Interference” is probably a more appropriate word, but because “noise” was the term first used in studies of telecommunication, you should be familiar with it too.
Technical interference refers to the factors that cause the receiver to perceive distortion in the intended information or stimuli. And the sender too may create the distortion: a person who has a speech impediment or who mumbles a great deal may have difficulty making words clear to someone else. At a party one person may not be able to hear the response of another because the stereo is blaring or because other people standing nearby are speaking so loudly. In this case, the interference is simply the transmission of the sounds of other people in conversation.
The second type of interference is semantic interference, witch occurs when the receiver does not attribute the same meaning to the signal that the sender does.
As we have seen, interference can exist in the context of the communication, in the channel, in the communicator who sends the message, or in the one who receives it.
Communicator 2: receiver/sender
For most communication, visual perception will be an essential aspect of message reception. Another critical aspect of message reception is listening.
Listening and hearing are far from synonymous. When Communicator 2 (the receiver/sender) listens, four different yet interrelated processes will be involved: attention, hearing, understanding, and remembering.
Figure 1.1 has received a message, we have come only halfway through the continuous and ongoing process that is communication. For each receiver of a message is also a sender of messages – hence, the term “receiver/sender”. Moreover, that person’s uniqueness as a human being ensures that his or her attempts to communicate will be very different from those of the other person in the model. For example, Communicator 2’s cultural input may be quite unlike that of Communicator 1. His or her filters, both physiological and psychological, will be different. The stimuli he or she transmits will be different. Even the selection of channels and sources of difficulty, or interference, may differ.
Once Communicator 2 responds to Communicator 1, a circle can represent their interaction. But as their exchange progresses in time, several circles more accurately describe the relationship between them. In fact, all but the briefest exchanges entail several communication cycles. Thus time itself becomes the final element in our model.
It seems clear that human communication occurs in several kinds of situation. Six different contexts seem to be widely agreed upon in the communication literature. These are (1) two-person, (2) interviewing, (3) small-group, (4) public, (5) organizational, (6) mass communication. Keep in mind that while each of these contexts has some unique characteristics, all six share in common the process of creating a meaning between two or more people. And all six sometimes involve intercultural communication, another variable we will be examining.
Small-group communication is defined as “face-to-face communication among a small group of people who share a common purpose or goal, feel a sense of belonging to the group, and exert influence upon one another”. Since this context involves three or more people, the degree of intimacy, participation, and satisfaction tends to be lower than in two-person communication.
This context is often referred to as public speaking. It is a distinct context in a number of ways. First, it occurs in public rather than private places – that is, in auditoriums, classrooms, ballroom, etc. Second, public communication is relatively formal as opposed to informal, unstructured communications. Public communication usually requires that the speaker do significantly more preparation, and he or she should expect a more formalized setting than in two-person or small-group communication.
Organizational communication is defined as “the flow of messages within a network of interdependent relationships”. This definition fits not only businesses, but also hospitals, churches, government agencies, military organizations, and academic institutions.
This sixth context involves communication that is mediated. That is, the source of a message communicates through some print or electronic media. And mediated encounters differ from personal encounters. Mass communication is the most formal – and the most expensive. Television advertisements during the Super Bowl each January will cost millions of dollars per minute! In addition, the opportunities for feedback are severely limited, especially when compared with two-person or small-group communication. The audience in mass communication is relatively large, heterogeneous, and anonymous to the source. Finally, communication experience is characterized as public, rapid, and fleeting.
In our analysis of human communication, another category we shall be exploring is intercultural communication – that is, communication between members of different cultures (whether defined in terms of racial, ethnic, or socioeconomic differences, or a combination of these differences). Culture is a way of life developed and shared by a group of people and passed down from generation to generation.
This dimension of experience cuts across all communication contexts: it may occur in two-person communication, interviews, small groups, or any of the other categories we will examine in Part 2. Thus intercultural communication will be discussed not only in Chapter 13 but also in many other chapters of this text-for example, in relation to person perception, human attraction, verbal and nonverbal communication. In a society such as our own, with its rich mix of cultures, intercultural communication will be especially relevant.
Personal computers are becoming a daily tool for many. Students walking across campus are often listening to their Walkman. Fax machines are so popular that fast-food restaurants like McDonald’s use them to take orders.
Another technological wonder that has swept the country the cellular car phones.
With all this high-tech communication potential, human communication is at once more possible and perhaps less human. Regardless of your sentiments regarding these innovations, there is no question that they are having a profound and permanent impact on human communication.
What is effective communication?
Effective when a person gets his or her point across. This is but one measure of effectiveness. More generally, communication is effective when the stimulus as it was initiated and intended by the sender, or source, corresponds closely with the stimulus as it is perceived and responded to by the receiver.
But how do we measure our own effectiveness? We can’t judge our effectiveness if our intentions are not clear; we must know what we are trying to do. What makes that first definition of effectiveness inadequate (“when a person gets his or her point across”) is that in communicating we may try to bring about one or more of several possible outcomes. We shall consider five of them here: understanding, pleasure, attitude influence, improved relationships, and action.
Understanding refers primarily to accurate reception of the content of the intended stimulus. In this sense, a communicator is said to be effective if the receiver has an accurate understanding of the message the communicator has tried to convey.
The purpose of public communication can also be pleasure; the after-dinner speech and the speech intended to entertain fall into this category. Much of the informal communication within an organization takes place during lunch hours, coffee breaks, and company picnics, and management club dances. And certainly in movies, situation comedies, and televised sports events we see entertainment provided on a grand scale.
Summing up see that today many communication scholars emphasize the transactional nature of the communication process, so that one person’s communication can be defined only in relation to some other or others.
We saw that all the elements in Communicator 1’s half of our communication cycle – input, filters, verbal and nonverbal messages, channels, and interference – are different for Communicator 2 because of his or her uniqueness as a human being.
Much of the time people spend communicating involves two-person communication. But in studying human communication, we are also concerned with contexts in witch a great many parties are involved, feedback is limited, and messages are transmitted through such media as newspaper, radio, and television. We are interested therefore in the principles of human communication as they apply not only to the two-person setting and the interview but also to small-group, public, organizational, and mass communication.
If you associate interviews only with job hunting, your definition of the term is too narrow. The interview encompasses many of the elements of all two-person communication. When you consult a doctor, canvass door-to-door for a political candidate, or ask a stranger for detailed instructions on how to get to a particular place, you are in some sense involved in an interview, or a “conversation with a purpose”, which we think is a good definition.
Another good definition is: “a process of dyadic, relational communication with a predetermined and a serious purpose. The interview has also become a popular from of entertainment on variety of television news and public interest shows and documentaries.
Interviews serve a number of functions, as can be seen from Table 8.1.
Table 8.1 Ten Interview Objectives
Objective Description Example
Getting information Interviewer gathers facts, opinions, or attitudes from respondent Census taker collects data
Giving information Interviewer presents facts, opinions, or attitudes to respondent, often as a from of instruction Doctor explains to patient how to maintain a balanced diet
Persuading Interviewer attempts to influence respondent’s attitude and ultimately his or her behavior Student tries to convince an instructor to give a make-up exam
Problem solving Interviewer and respondent attempt to identify causes of a problem and together seek a possible solution Parent and teacher discuss child’s reading difficulties
Counseling Respondent seeks advice from interviewer on a matter of personal concern Client requests legal advice from an attorney
Job seeking or hiring Interviewer and respondent exchange information on which to base an employment decision Campus recruiter meets with senior students
Receiving complaints Interviewer tries to minimize the respondent’s dissatisfaction Store manager speaks with customer about defective merchandise
Measuring stress Interviewer determines how respondent acts under pressure Personnel director of large corporation selects a top executive
Standardized and unstandardized interviews
Whatever his or her objectives, the interviewer may use one of two approaches: standardized or unstandardized. The standardized interview consists of a set of prepared questions from which the interviewer is not allowed to deviate. The interviewer poses the questions precisely as they are worded on the form.
The unstandardized interview allows the interviewer as well as the respondent considerable latitude. The interviewer may deviate from any of the prepared questions. He or she may follow up a prepared question with one of his or her own to obtain a more complete or appropriate answer. He or she may drop a question that seems unsuitable or one that might put the respondent on the defensive. If he or she suddenly discovers an interesting subject that had not been anticipated, the interviewer has the freedom to pursue this line of questioning as far as is desired. In short, the unstandardized interview gives the interviewer considerable flexibility and potential for discovery.
As we have described them, the standardized and unstandardized interviews are extremes.
Types of interview questions
Interviewing is essentially dialogue, dialogue in which one party, the interviewer, guides the direction of the conversation by means of a series of questions. A skillful interviewer knows a great deal about the art of questioning. He or she responds to the answers received by modifying subsequent responses – particularly the kinds of questions that are being asked.
Open versus Closed Questions
The open question resembles an essay question on a test; it places on restrictions on the length of the respondent’s answer. Examples of open questions would be, “Would you please summarize your work experience?” and “What are your feeling about your marriage?”. The interviewer may want to use open questions early in the interviewer to get the respondent to relax and reveal more personal information.
The advantages that it provides the interviewer with a good example of the interviewee’s communication skills. The disadvantages of an open question are that it takes a great deal of time and may limit the progress of the interview.
The closed question is more specific and usually requires a shorter, more direct answer. Contrast the following with the two open questions just given: “How many years of work experience have you had in this field?” and “What aspect of your marriage seems to trouble you most?” Closed questions may restrict the respondent still further by requiring a simple yes-or-no answer. “Would you like to work for a small corporation?” or “Do you feel you have a happy marriage?”
The open questions are often more appropriate at the early part of the interview; the closed questions can be used to focus the conversation more as you go.
The closed question has the following advantages: more questions can be asked in more areas and in less time than with open questions; the interviewer can guide and regulate the interview with a great deal of control; and closed questions are often easier and less threatening for the interviewee and so tend to put the interviewee at ease. The disadvantages of a closed question include: it provides little or no information “surrounding” the issue raised in the question, and it may close off areas that would be potentially valuable for the interviewer in his or her effort to arrive at a decision concerning the interviewee.
Leading versus Neutral Questions
Neutral questions are those, which do not explicitly or implicitly suggest the desired answer. Leading questions are the opposite. Obviously, the interviewer can obtain more accurate information by employing the neutral questions.
Stewart and Cash (1988) offer the following examples:
The varying degrees of direction and the distinction between neutral and leading questions are illustrated in the following questions.
Leading Questions Neutral Questions
1. You like close detail work, don’t you? 1. Do you like close detail work?
2. You’re going with us, aren’t you? 2. Are you going with us?
3. Do you oppose the union like most workers I’ve talked to? 3. What are your attitudes toward the union?
4. Wouldn’t you rather have a Buick? 4. How does this Buick compare to other cars in this price range?
5. How do you feel about these asinine government rules? 5. How do your feel about these government rules?
6. When was the lat time you go got drunk? 6. Tell me about your drinking habits.
7. Have you stopped cheating on your exams? 7. Did you cheat on your last exam?
8. Would you classify yourself as a conservative or a radical? 8.Would you classify yourself as a reactionary, conservative, moderate, liberal, radical, or other?
9. Don’t you think tax reform is unfair to farmers? 9. How do you feel about tax reform?
Opening of the Interview
In beginning an interview, an interviewer ha three basic responsibilities. The first is to introduce the objectives of the interview to the respondent.
The second task for the interviewer I to establish rapport with the respondent, to get him or her to feel that the interviewer can be trusted and that the meeting does not present a threatening situation. The interviewers third and most important responsibility is motivating the respondent to answer questions. An interviewer should never assume that a potential respondent is just waiting to be interviewed. Instead he or she should act as though the person is busy and try to show briefly why it is important that the person give a few moments of his or her time.
Body of the Interview
The body of the interview constitutes the major portion of time spent with the respondent. After selecting the topics, the interviewer then determines the actual sequence of questions. At this point the funnel sequence is often useful: the interviewer begins with broad questions and gradually makes them more specific.
The funnel sequence is just one of several ways of organizing the exchange.
Finally, a written summary may be sent to the respondent. In appraisal interviews this procedure is especially helpful: Both parties then have a written record of the agreed-upon objectives for the employee’s future job responsibilities. The summary will also serve as a record of the employee’s progress.
Nondirective Interview Technique
The nondirective interview technique, however, demands skill of a different order. In this approach, which is often used in counseling or problem solving, the interviewer tries to restate the essence of the respondent’s answers without making value judgments about them or offering advice. The aim is to encourage interviewees to elaborate on previous statement in greater depth and thus gain insight into the situation so that they can help solve their own problem. It reflects the joke “How many psychiatrists does it take to change a light bulb? Only one, but the light bulb has to really want to be changed.”
In the nondirective interview, you convey to the person that you are listening and empathizing with the situation. Banville (1978) illustrates the technique with an example of a problem statement that you might hear from a typical college friend and some sample of common responses:
A. “I can’t figure out what’s wrong, but lately I’ve had a tough time getting up during the week. On Saturday and Sunday when I could sleep later, I’m up at he crack of dawn!”
1. “If were you, I’d try getting to bet a little earlier during the week and stay up later on Friday and Saturday nights. (Advice-giving.)
2. “The reason you do that is because you’re not happy with your job.” (Interpretation.)
3. “Didn’t you realize when you enrolled in those classes that they would be too heavy a load for you? Why did you take eighteen units in the first place?” (Cross-examination.)
4. “Oh, yeah, I know, I think that’s a pretty common thing. It’s nothing to be concerned about.” (Reassurance.)
5. “It sounds like your everyday responsibilities are getting you down.” (Paraphrasing.)
Advice giving is highly judgmental and implies when the person can’t find a solution to the problem. If, for example, you respond by saying, “If you had picked decent classes, you wouldn’t have such a hard time getting up during the week,” you are making a judgment, which often brings out defensiveness in the speaker.
Interpretation: “You’re just feeling that way because you are worried about final exams.” Here you are trying to get to the cause of the problem – but you often run the risk of being seriously in error.
Cross-examination is sometimes used in an attempt to learn more about the situation. With such questions as, “Did the problem start this semester?” “Would you say you have been happy this term?” “So, you hate your eight o’clock class, huh?” These questions hardly convey a sense of helpfulness to the person.
When you offer reassurance, you try to “smooth things over” by telling the person something like, “Oh, I think everybody has that happen to them,” or “I think things always work out for the best.”
Paraphrasing is the preferred method for responding to a person who is expressing his or her feelings about a problem situation. When you paraphrase, your intent is to keep the focus of attention on that person’s feelings, ideas, and insights rather than your own. Paraphrasing is also called reflecting.
Interviewer empathy is an important ingredient in the nondirective interview technique.
The interview is defined as “conversation with a purpose.” It is more structured than dyad communication and may involve more than two people. Interview objectives, various types of questions and responses, and ways of structuring the interview were discussed.