What is Communication

Gertrude Pswarayi
Posted March 4, 2009 from Zimbabwe

I want to share with you the Power of effective communication in addressing everyday issues, particularly human rights relating to women and other marginalised and vulnerable groups.

The idea behind communication is to bring about understanding between the receiver and the sender of a message. Gupta (1997) notes that people consciously and unconsciously communicate and that the process is a planned and organised activity that is universal as well as equivocal with intentions of social influence, social control or persuading others.

When defining communication, many experts are in agreement that messages are transmitted and that meaning and experience are shared. The Oxford Advanced Learners’ Dictionary of Current English (1989) defines communication as a means of making something known or an act of conveying something. Gupta further points out that the Columbia Encyclopaedia proposes that the basic forms of communication are by signs and sound.

Harold Lasswell (1948) sums up the communication process as “who says what to who in what channel and for effect,” while Gupta (1997) sums it as “who says what through what medium to whom with what intended effect.”

Bernard Berelson (1990) summarises the process as “some kinds of communication of some kinds of people under some kinds of condition, have some kinds of effect.” Shannon and Weaver (1949) say communication includes “all of the procedures by which one mind may affect another.”(Cited in Gupta, 1997).

According to Schachter (1951), communication is the mechanism by which power is exerted. On the other hand, Berelson and Steiner (1964) define communication as “the transmission of information, ideas, emotions, skills, etc. by use of symbols, words, pictures, figures, graphics, etc.”(ibid). Jefkins (1993) notes that public relations cannot be separated from communication because the practice embraces the total communication of any organisation, commercial or non-commercial, in both public and private sectors. In addition, Howard (1998) says organisations should have a corporate image which communicates the organisation’s mission, professionalism and calibre of its employees. As a way of trying to explain the process of communication, scholars have formulated various exchange models. Newcombs (1953) suggests that communication occurs with a social context and within social relationships. The Westly and Maclean model (1957) asserts that (in mass communication) the audiences depend largely on the mass media for their information while Schramm and Osgood (1954) view communication as an ongoing process without a starting point. The ender and the receiver are equally active in the communication process and meaning is produced in the process.

Colin Cherry (1964) reiterates that communication is “the establishment of a social unit from individuals by the use of language ir signs. The sharing of common sets of rules, for various goal-seeking actvities.” (cited inGupta, 1997)

Harnacha nd Fest (1964) say communication is “the process by which people interact for the purpose of interpersonal and intra-personal integration.” (ibid) According to Edwin Newman (1948) it is “the process by which an aggregation of men is changes into a functioning group.” (ibid)

Fotheringham (1966) writes that communication has a pervasive purpose, which is “to help a receiver perceive a meaning similar to that in the mind of the communicator.”(Cited in Gupta). Gode (1959) says communication is “a process that makes common to two or several what was the monopoly of one or some one.” (ibid) An Indian scholar, D. S. Metha (1979), offers a definition of mass communication. He write that mass communication is the “…dissemination of information, ideas and entertainment by the modern communication media such as radio, television, film, press, publication, advertising or traditional media such as folk dance, drama and puppetry.”

Studies in communication have shows factors influence the process of communication. This may be due to lack of clarity, simplicity and credibility.

Rapath (1966) suggests that a the speaker’s ideas and experience influence the process of communication. Merrill et al (1990) suggest five major barriers to effective communication. These are:(1) Personal barriers that may large parts in helping or damaging communication. Personal barriers may be physical in origin. For instance, if one of the communicants has a headache or is sleepy. (2) Monological communication, which occurs when the communicator loses touch with the receiver because he or she is self-occupied. S/He concentrates too much on the message itself, on encoding the message and the style of the message, and is blind to the nature and needs of the audience. (3) Ideological-Political barriers - this is more common in Zimbabwe where politics is highly polarised. In such a case, communicants have different basic ideologies or political orientation and these affect the communication process. (4) Language differences may cause communicants to have trouble communicating if they are not using the same language or if they are using another version of the same language. An example is a specialised jargon of various professions or street language. One can understand the words but not their meaning thereby resulting in semantic noise. Other factors that may hamper effective communication include difference in intelligence among people, a lack of concern for achieving success in communication, propaganda and the absence of common experiences some of which overlap.

I hope this will help you plan your communication process better when advancing the cause of women worldwide.

Till then.

Yours in advancing the Power of Communication

Gertrude Pswarayi

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