Kate Kei

Basic components of communication

In order to be able to communicate better, you absolutely need to understand how communication works and what its essential components are.

There are 8 major components that are playing at the same time when we communicate. All of them are very important because they determine the outcome of any particular communication process: agreement or disagreement, conflict or understanding, cooperation or misunderstanding:

  1. Environment
  2. Context
  3. Source
  4. Message
  5. Channel
  6. Interference
  7. Receiver
  8. Feedback

Here is a scheme of the interaction of these elements:

Elements of a communication process

This model is simplified. For example, it does not take into account unintentional communication that can also occur. However, it clearly shows that all these elements work as a system forming a dynamic, constantly changing process, and affecting each other.

Now let me tell you a bit more about each of these components of communication.

  1. Environment. The environment in which communication occurs means both physical and psychological surroundings. It is the location where communication takes place (every aspect of it can affect communication: the size of the room, the light or its absence, its cleanness and colors… It’s easy to understand – a small, comfortable and cozy room with dimmed light inspires more intimate conversations, while a conference room full of people will certainly make you communicate differently.) The environment includes also the relationships of the communicators, their feelings, attitudes, mood and perceptions.
  1. Context. Context means the situation, the circumstances under which the communication takes place. We don’t say same things the same way in different contexts. Context and environment affect each other.
  1. Source. The source is the person who creates a message. The source determines what is to be communicated, encodes it into a message, chooses a channel and sends the message. Communication normally involves multiple participants, because it is interactive. Thus each communication process has multiple sources.
  1. Message. A message is a stimulus produced by the source that affects the receiver. It can be intentional or not and it may contain or no words, movements, expressions, sounds etc. Every message is unique, because it is never possible to reproduce exactly all the elements that occur at the same time. The environment, the context, the feelings of the receiver are constantly changing which is why the same words will always be perceived differently.
  1. Channel. The channel is the way chosen by the source to transmit the message. It can be oral or written words, gestures, smells, touches, tastes. Often the impact produced by any given message can vary depending on the source that was chosen to convey it.
  1. Interference. Interference means factors that change the intended meaning of any given message. Interference can be external and internal. External interference comes from the environment. It can be a sudden noise, somebody’s appearance and other distracting factors. Internal interference is often more subjective. These distracting factors come from “inside” the receiver – it can be thoughts that distract the receiver from whatever the source is intending to communicate them. It can also be the receiver perceptions of any given component of the message that distorts the intended meaning. For example, someone can think that the source’s loud voice means aggression and interpret the message from this angle.
  1. Receiver. The receiver is the person who receives the message. They analyze and interpret the message in order to understand the meaning.
  1. Feedback. Feedback is a response to a message that the receiver sends to the source. Thanks to the feedback, the source of the message can see whether the message was understood as intended. In some situations the feedback is not openly given. However, it allows to correct what was misunderstood as well as to see how to improve the messages. Feedback makes the communication a really shared process.

So, every time you communicate, remember these elements and adapt your message accordingly.


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