To become a more effective communicator, learn the steps involved in the communication process
Almost every piece of career advancement advice that you'll ever receive will include some reference to improving communication skills – and for good reason. The ability to effectively communicate is a vital job skill that can benefit you at any level of employment. Beyond that, it's an essential skill in nearly every aspect of life – from day-to-day casual interactions with strangers to more intimate relationships with loved ones. To truly maximize those skills, however, it helps to understand how the communication process actually works.
In this post, we'll examine the process of communication and the various steps included in any effective communication effort. We'll also explore some tips and ideas that you can use to improve your own communication process and maximize your effectiveness as a communicator.
What is the communication process?
While most people take communication for granted, there is actually a process that occurs whenever two or more people exchange information and ideas. This is true regardless of how you're communicating or which medium you're using to make that exchange. Since this communication process often occurs at rapid speed, it often doesn't get the attention that it deserves. By recognizing the various steps in that process, however, you can better focus on areas that you can improve to enhance your communication skills.
This process includes several vital components that work in concert to create any successful exchange of information. They include:
The sender, who originates an idea and determines both the message and its delivery method
The delivery channel, or medium, which can include verbal or nonverbal transmission, written words, video, email, and other forms of information exchange
The receiver, who decodes the message and may provide feedback
In addition, there are sometimes obstacles to the communication process. Many experts refer to these obstacles as “noise” and recognize them as a potential impediment to effective communication. These obstacles can prevent effective delivery or receipt of messages and should be minimized wherever possible.
7 essential steps in the communication process
The communication process includes seven key steps that involve an interaction between the sender of a message and the receiver. This is true whether you're communicating with one person or one hundred. Those seven essential steps in the communication process are outlined below.
1. Develop an idea to transmit
Every communication begins with the initial sender. When you need to deliver a message, everything begins with that initial formulation of an idea that needs to be shared. Note that this is true whether the sender is an employee of a company, the manager, the owner, or a customer. Departments and organizations can send messages too. In every instance, the sender initiates the communication process by developing an idea that needs to be conveyed to others.
2. Encode the message
Once the idea is created, the sender needs to properly encode that information in a compelling message. Ideas need to be properly formed before they can be effectively communicated, to ensure that they deliver the right message to the receiver or receivers. Depending on the nature of the idea, that message may be encoded using words, pictures, diagrams, or other communication methods.
For our purpose in this post, we will focus on words. The words that the sender chooses should be selected with one goal in mind: to convey that initial idea in a meaningful way to the message's recipients. In casual conversation, this message encoding often occurs without much thought at all – but in more structured settings like an office, it's usually necessary to take a little more time crafting the right message.
3. Choose the right channel for delivery
Messages do not just magically pass between sender and receiver. Effective delivery requires the sender to choose the right medium or channel for delivery. When sending messages, it's important to select the most effective delivery option if you want to ensure that your communication has the right impact. For example, if you're delivering a verbal message you can choose a one-on-one conversation, group setting, or even a telephone call. Written messages can be delivered via email, reports, memorandums, or text.
4. Deliver the message
The next step involves the actual process of sending the message. How you do this will depend on the channel that you selected for delivery. If you choose the right message and deliver it using the best possible medium, you can maximize your chances of effectively conveying that idea to your chosen audience.
5. The recipient receives the message
Once the message is delivered, it is received by the recipient, who attempts to understand the idea that you have conveyed. If your message is never received and understood, the communication process is a failure. Understanding that basic principle is key to ensuring that your communication process becomes focused on the recipient rather than your own idea.
6. The message is decoded
Decoding is just a technical way to describe the receiver's interpretation process. It's the way in which the recipient of your message interprets your words and understands the idea you're trying to deliver. As the sender, it's your job to do everything you can to convey ideas in ways that others can properly interpret. Misinterpretations can lead to misunderstandings that have a negative impact on the communication process.
7. The receiver provides feedback
Feedback from the receiver is the final step for effective communication. That response can help the sender to determine the effectiveness of the idea, message, delivery channel, and delivery. Feedback can vary, being either positive or negative based on the success of the message delivery and recipient interpretation. Once that feedback is provided, however, the communication process is technically complete.
It is important to recognize, though, that the communication process steps outlined above are simply an explanation of how an idea is formulated, messaged, delivered, received, and interpreted between two parties. That same process can be repeated as many times as necessary from sender to receiver and back again, to share ideas and information between two or more people. Still, knowing how these steps work to deliver ideas can be useful for effectively engaging in longer communication exchanges.
Tips you can use to improve your own communication process
No matter how skilled you may be at communication, one hard truth remains: everyone can learn to communicate better. The following tips can help you learn to improve your communication process.
Focus on your audience
Get to know your audience and formulate your messages with them in mind. Think about how they receive and process information and use that knowledge to ensure that you encode your ideas into messages that they can easily interpret.
Simple is always better
When in doubt, always choose simple messaging over complex narratives. Use as much common language as possible, opt for shorter sentences wherever possible, and focus on delivering information in easily digestible portions. Again, be receiver-focused if you want to ensure that you are understood.
Practice active listening
Active listening is an underrated skill. In fact, the best communicators are those who practice active listening in every area of their lives. Learn to listen to your audience, put yourself in their shoes, and ask questions that help you to gain more insight into what their messages actually mean.
Don't be afraid to clarify
No matter how hard you try to effectively deliver your ideas in message form, misinterpretations are all but certain to occur from time to time. Don't hesitate to offer a clarification if there's any sign that your recipient has misunderstood you. A simple and timely clarification can help you to avoid a whole host of potential communication problems.
Think about how you respond
Always pause for a moment before you respond to any message. This gives you a chance to fully digest what others are saying and ensure that your reply is based on the right interpretation of their words. Taking the time to consider your response can lead to more meaningful exchanges, while minimizing the risk of any potential misunderstanding.
Remember that it's not all verbal
Whenever you're engaged in any in-person conversation, don't forget to consider nonverbal cues as you deliver and receive messages. Maintain appropriate eye contact, pay attention to your own body language, and be mindful of others' nonverbal messages too. After all, many researchers believe that the majority of human communication occurs without words.
Improved use of the communication process can fuel your career success
Your ability to communicate effectively can be a major determining factor in your overall career success. Fortunately, everyone can learn to be a more effective communicator. By learning how to use the communication process to deliver your ideas to others in a more effective way, you can improve those skills and enjoy career advancement.
Make sure that your communication skills are properly conveyed to potential employers by taking advantage of our free resume review today!