Communication Effectiveness

Communication is the process of sharing information, thoughts and feelings between people through speaking, writing or body language. This process requires a vast repertoire of skills in intrapersonal and interpersonal processing, listening, observing, speaking, questioning, analyzing, and evaluating. Use of these processes is developmental and transfers to all areas of life including home, school, community and work.

The act of communication begins with internal processing about information or feelings you want to share with someone else. This process is known as encoding. After encoding, the message is sent through either spoken or written words, which completes encoding. At the other end of communication is receiving and interpreting what was sent – a process, called decoding. The recipient can and should confirm receipt to the sender to close the communication loop.

Effective communication extends the concept of communication to require that transmitted content is received and understood by someone in the way it was intended. This communication involves verbal, nonverbal, and paraverbal components.

The verbal component refers to the content of the message. Words that are critical, blaming, judgmental or accusatory usually create a resistant and defensive mindset, while words that normalize the issues and problems reduce resistance. Effective verbal messages are short and clear.

Body language, also called nonverbal communication, includes posture, position of hands and arms, eye contact and facial expression. In some cases nonverbal communication is more important and conveying than verbal. Some studies show that it accounts for 55% of what others understand. Nonverbal messages enhance intent, meaning and subtlety in communication through the presence, stance and eye contact of the sender of a message.

Body language that is inconsistent with content creates a question in the mind of the listener about the real message. Effective communication requires that content and body language give the same message.

Paraverbal communication refers to the messages that we transmit through the tone, pitch, and pacing of voice. The paraverbal message accounts for approximately 38% of what is communicated. What is heard is usually how something is said, not what is being said. Something that has one meaning can have a totally different meaning, depending on which words are emphasized.

Several other factors should be considered in order to achieve effective communication, including the context and the emotions. The context in which people communicate includes their age, region, sex and the intellectual abilities of the recipient of message. It is also useful to assess receptivity and the emotional state of the sender and receiver at the time of communication.

Emotions can also influence the effective communication. If the sender is angry, his ability to send effective messages may decrease. In the same way, if the recipient is upset or disagrees with the message or the sender, he may hear something different that what was intended by the sender.

In every communication, the message sender attempts to send consistent verbal, paraverbal and nonverbal messages. When the message is inconsistent, the listener may become confused. When a person sends a message with conflicting verbal, paraverbal and nonverbal information, the nonverbal information tends to be believed.

Good listening is essential to effective communication. Listening is a combination of hearing what another person says and psychological involvement with the person who is talking. Active listening includes asking clarifying questions or restating what the speaker has said. Restating is a way for the message receiver to assure that the intent of the message was correctly received. Active listening becomes particularly important when the communication includes emotional content.

Cultural differences can affect communication too. The choices of communication styles depend on cognitive differences due to cultural diversity. The in?uence of cultural diversity on communication becomes more serious in computer-based communication, which refers to a wide variety of communication systems, ranging from electronic mail to the international conferences distributed over the Internet.

Although computer-based communication shortens time spans and abridges geographical distances, it exacerbates the ambiguity and misunderstanding among communication parties with different cultural backgrounds.

Several psychocultural factors can affect communication, among them ethnocentrism, prejudice and stereotypes. Ethnocentrism is the tendency to view the values and norms of one's culture as superior to other cultures. Prejudice involves making a prejudgment based on previous decisions, experiences or on membership in a social category. Stereotyping is an exaggerated set of expectations and beliefs about the attributes of a group membership category. A stereotype is an overgeneralization of an identity group without any attempt to perceive individual variations within this group.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Effective Communication Skills for Scientific and Technical Professionals
Harry E. Chambers.
Perseus Publishing, 2001
Essential Tools of the Internet: Using E-Mail and the Web for Effective Communication: A Public Sector Consultant Shares Ideas, Guidance, and Best-Practice Examples on How Community-Based Nonprofits Are Using These Tools to Integrate Technology into Their Communications Plans
Lewis, Dina M.
The Public Manager, Vol. 32, No. 2, Summer 2003
Managing Organizational Behavior
Ronald R. Sims.
Quorum Books, 2002
Librarian’s tip: "Management Functions and the Importance of Good Communication" begins on p. 139
Networking and Interviewing: An Art in Effective Communication
MacDermott, Catherine Smith.
Business Communication Quarterly, Vol. 58, No. 4, December 1995
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Applied Communication Theory and Research
Dan O'Hair; Gary L. Kreps.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1990
Librarian’s tip: "Effective Negotiation Communication" begins on p. 80
Conflict Resolution Education: A Solution for Peace
Lincoln, Melinda G.
Communications and the Law, Vol. 23, No. 1, March 2001
Insights on Effective Communication: Some "Sabbatical" Observations
Ralph, Edwin G.
Education, Fall 1998
Strategic Public Relations Management: Planning and Managing Effective Communication Programs
Erica Weintraub Austin; Bruce E. Pinkleton.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2001
Strategic Planning for Public Relations
Ronald D. Smith.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2005 (2nd edition)
Librarian’s tip: Step 6 "Using Effective Communication"
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