Communication is a two-way process, and the key elements
needed are as follows:
Sender- the person
starting the conversation
Message- what the sender
wishes to communicate
Medium- the method of
Receiver- the person who
receive the message and interprets it
message has to be correctly interpreted by the receiver
Feedback- the receiver has
to show that he or she received and understood the message
This can be represented as a Communication Cycle
Thinking about the communication cycle, you can observe
that any interruptions to the cycle can cause difficulties with communication.
Messages can get lost or be incomplete. Each part of the cycle has equal
This refers to people who have problem with hearing or
vision. If you cannot see well or hear well, you are most likely to miss verbal
or non-verbal signals. The term ‘sensory deprivation’ refers to person who has
no hearing or no vision or both.
If you do not speak the same language, this can be a
significant barrier to communication. In this situation, without an interpreter
or even a phrase book, you are more likely to heavily depend on body language
to understand what a person is trying to communicate.
In France when you greet someone, you may be expected to
kiss them on both cheeks whilst clasping their hands. In India, it may be bad
manners to touch the person at all.
Try Exercise 8 at the bottom of the page
When speaking to someone we do not know, it is
probably advisable to speak more formally. This is language that follows the
proper grammar and cultural rules. Informal language can be used with people we
are more familiar with and often involves using familiar terms such as:
acronyms, nicknames, jargon, dialect and slang. However, even with someone you
are familiar with, using informal language can still sometimes lead to
miscommunication and in some situations should be avoided.
Acronyms are words formed from the initials of
other words (e.g. NHS, GPS).
Jargon can be defined as specialist words or
expressions used by a profession or group that are difficult for others to
understand. Jargon is often related to technical words and acronyms e.g. BP
(medical shorthand for blood pressure), IT firewall (something that protects
your computer from cyber-attack).
Slang is an informal language typically restricted to a particular context or group of
people. For example in parts of London people use rhyming slang to represent
words and phrases: ‘mince pies’ = eyes, ‘Have a butchers’ = ‘Have a butchers
hook’ = have a look.
Dialect words are specific to a local
geographical area. In some parts of the North of England for example, a small
back alley way is often referred to as a ginnel.
Now try Exercise 9- Jargon, slang, dialect and acronyms at the bottom of the page
Emotions can act as barriers to effective
communication. When people are upset, angry or distraught they often have
difficulties in decoding or interpreting the message that is being conveyed. A
person’s emotional state has to be considered and dealt with before
communicating important information.
Anxiety can cause similar problems when
communicating. It can prevent a realistic assessment of what is being said.
When communicating information, a very anxious person will most likely not take
in most of what has been said to them.
Depression cause feelings of hopelessness and
isolation, which can prevent communication. An isolated or depressed person
most likely takes a consistent, negative view of the world and may not value
anything that is said to them.
Aggression of any sort can be a barrier to
communication because it often leads to people being frightened. Aggression can
be categorised as both verbal aggression, as in shouting or raising one’s
voice, and physical aggression (or intimidation), such as towering over the
other person, coming physically close or behaving in a threatening manner.
Mental health issues or mental illness, can
unduly affect communication. For example, if a person is on heavy medication or
undergoing a paranoid episode which may affect their ability to understand what
is said to them, then it is possible that only very basic communication would
be effective in this situation.
People with learning difficulties can have a
problem expressing themselves (e.g. not be able to process information,
remember things well, coordination problems). Conditions such as autism and
Asperger’s syndrome where a person may struggle with body language and social
cues, may require a simple, formal and unambiguous approach to communication
for better understanding.
Dementia involves gradual deterioration of
intellectual capacity. As a result, people with dementia also tend to be
unaware of the real world, people or places and forget what they have been
location, poor lighting etc., may impede effective communication. A person with
hearing difficulties in a noisy room which is poorly lit will struggle to hear
a person speaking and hinder the ability to lip read.
Misjudgements and misunderstanding
Conversation topics related to religion,
politics, cultural differences etc. and presented as jokes, can sometimes be
source of misunderstanding and tension.
Behaviour that is appropriate at home does not
necessarily mean that is appropriate at work. Physical contact (such as a hug)
when greeting a family member could be misinterpreted at work if you did the
same thing with a work colleague.
Writing & Reading (including emails and
man wishes to write in a clear style, let him first be clear in his
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Sometimes a document, an email or text message
can be misinterpreted if the message writer is not particularly skilled at
using language in the right order or leaves important words or phrases out of
For instance, it is confusing to say “I rode a
black horse in red pajamas,” because it may lead us to think the horse was
wearing red pajamas. The sentence becomes clear when it is changed to “Wearing
red pajamas, I rode a black horse.”
Interestingly, how the message is structured
in terms of grammar is more important than the words being spelled correctly
when interpreting its correct meaning.
Now try Exercise 10: Scrambled Word Test below
You can also try Exercise 11 - Reading exercise below