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Chapter 1: What is Communication

General Introduction
Communication is a significant building block of personal, social, and professional interactions.
Mastery over a certain subject has no substitute, but your efficacy in articulating that conceptual
grasp falls under the purview of the supplementary domain of communication skills.
SO, you can be bloody good at your subject, and honestly, that IS usually the most important thing,
BUT exemplary communication skills apotheosize an already excellent candidate.

Eg. There are two of you, who are more or less equally qualified for a job opening. But one of you
has the ability to advantageously present that specific nugget of information, while Candidate 2 is
just a little bit incoherent and all over the place. That becomes an incentive, for me, as an
interviewer, to make my decision. I choose the candidate who is not only well read, but also
possesses the ability to present themselves to an audience (well turned out, well spoken, rations their
words carefully, precise but not curt, etc.). In todays globalized, extremely out-there professional
world, where appearances are key, communication then becomes an indispensable attribute for
participating successfully in cultural processes.

In some cases, a candidate who has the skill to market himself or herself can claim a definite edge
over other candidates, and overcome the lacunae that might exist in his/her theoretical knowledge.

Communication: Some Definitions

The etymological root of communication is the Latin word: communis or communicare. Both words
have in common the idea of sharing, participation, and community. We often think of
communication as an exceptional instance; a limited sense of consciously sharing information,
verbally. Eg. We can see how holding a conversation is communication, but fail to realize how
something like, making a face when the teacher calls on you, is also a form of communication.
(Kinesics)
However, communication encompasses all aspects of human interaction. Silence, the negative of
speech, the lack of conscious articulation, is as potent a tool for communicating ideas/feelings as
words. Humans have been communicating through non-verbal and verbal methods since time
immemorial. Cavemen did it through sounds, older civilizations did it through
signs/calls/hieroglyphics, and so it developed till the advent of language.

We will later differentiate between different categories of communication.

The sum-total of all the things one person does when he wants to create an understanding in
the mind of another. It is a bridge of meaning. It involves a systematic and continuous
process of telling, listening, and understanding. Louis Allen (Management and
Organization)

Systematic Because it is a certain arrangement of ideas, words, that are transmitted in a


specific linguistic order to evoke a response. Language is dependent on syntax (arrangement
of words) and semantics (related to meaning). A message is coherent only when it is coded in
a specific order that would be culturally understandable to the receiver.
Continuous The process of encoding and sending a message is goal oriented, and a
response/feedback is elicited, which starts off another cycle of communication, and thus it
continues.
A clear understanding, a precise medium, and a decoding with similar intent, is necessary for
the avoidance of miscommunication. Otherwise it is just like a bad game of Chinese
Whispers.

Communication is talking to one another, it is television, it is spreading information, it is our


hairstyle, it is literary criticism. Fiske

This specific definition stresses the larger cultural aspect of communication. Eg. A changing
clothing trend shows a communitys communication with, transformation of, and
participation in, culture. Eg. Rachels (Jennifer Annistons haircut in F.R.I.E.N.D.S became
so iconic in the 90s that it was immortalized as the Rachel Cut. It was the culture making
itself, manifesting its formation through specific instances like these.

Communication as a type of social behavior involves a conscious exchange of symbols and


signs which are meaningful to the participants. The meanings are conveyed according to the
topical social approaches and interactions in the situation mutually defined by the
participants. Todor Petev

The extremely important aspect of the contextual nature of communication is highlighted


here (topical). Eg. Shakespeares play Romeo and Juliet not only spoke about a
transcendental, universal love but also contained references to its particular historical
context. Similarly, its remake RamLeela uses despite being, once again, about love (as the
Shakespeare play), uses words like text which would have been incomprehensible to
Shakespeares audience, but are relevant and coherent to us as 21st Century audiences with a
shared cultural context.
(Topical means something that is of immediate relevance, local importance).

Successful communication can only happen when both sender and receiver ascribe to a
common linguistic code. Two people with differing languages find it difficult to conduct a
meaningful conversation since the same code pertaining to words and symbols is not shared.

Communication is essentially the ability of one person to make contact with another and to
make himself or herself understood or if you prefer a slightly more formal version,
communication is the process by which meanings are exchanged between individuals through
the use of a common set of symbols. John Adnair (bold: mine)

Communication orders society through establishing the individuals role vis--vis other individuals.

Why Do We NEED Communication?

The basic block of human association physical, emotional, ideological, contextual.


Helps organize society through interaction.
Imparts a sense of self, and builds a larger community.
Helps a culture define itself.

Till now we have discussed communication skills and the act of communicating in a larger,
generalized sense. However, a small portion of this course also focuses on a specialized instance of
communication, i.e. business/organizational communication.
Business Communication:

Communication is integral not only within the organization, between employer-employee, employee-
employee, but also between the firm and its audience. There must be a spirit of mutual growth within
the company, ensured by the utilization of effective communications tools within the organization.
Publicity, marketing, PR, are the domains that incorporate the communication process of a company
with its consumers. Organizations which carry out clear, meaningful, and effective communication
with clients, employees, shareholders, creditors, and the public have better chances of building
reliable relationships and can count on good cooperation.

The magnitude of the rate of growth of industries can hardly be fathomed. Each firm has thousands
of employees scattered in hundreds of offices. If there were no or poor communication, a state of
utter chaos would prevail. In order to organize and systematically proceed on the path to success,
proper communication between all employees is needed. (Pooja Khanna)
Emails, faxes, telephone conversations, staff meetings, report preparation; all are manifestations of
business communication.

Different facets of communication skills are necessary at different levels of the organizational
hierarchy:
Before Employment: skills in conducting oneself in a group discussion, personal interview,
persuasion abilities, and presentation of the self.
At the lower levels of the business chain: Stress on the speaking part of the speaker-listener binary.
You should know how to market your skills, smartly make yourself visible, and maintain a
respectful but continuous stream of dialogue with your superiors. Differentiate yourself from the
pack.
At the managerial level: As you move up the chain of command, the focus shifts from the speaking
to the listening side of the speaker-listener binary. Comprehension, reading, writing, listening skills
become paramount; the Manager must interact with his/her employees, and build a suitable
environment of participative decision-making and encouragement of employee skills. Open Door
Policy

Communication skills are essential to coordinating various levels of functioning of an organization.


Rapid advancements in technology necessitate that the organization must constantly keep abreast of
these evolutions, and also train its employees adequately in these techniques. In this sense, as well,
communication skills become an indispensable aspect of life in a business institution.

Systematic and continuous that were used in the context of the general discussion, assume added
important in this situation. Communication needs to follow a systematic route through an
organization and reach the designated departments in a coherent manner in order to ensure effective
functioning. There should also be a continuous process of information-feedback between employer
employee so that orders are followed, and grievances addressed in a timely manner, to maintain the
environment of goal-oriented, mutual success.

Dr. Millers Six-Step Approach to Effective Communication: (After dash additions are my
expansions)

1. The initial idea in the mind of the encoder


2. Creation of the message - by encoder
3. Sending the message through an appropriate channel/medium
4. Receiving the message content must be same from sender to receiver for it to be successful
communication otherwise it is mis-communication. Shared understanding of cultural
processes between the sender-receiver/s.
5. Interpretation of the message decoding
6. Following up with feedback underscores the successful transmission of the message and
allows for another cycle of communication between sender and receiver.

All these points must be present if a communication is to be classified as successful.

Source: Creator of the message (Sender)


Encoding: Message is encoded in a systematic communication system (language, body language,
signs). Message framed, extra details omitted, message prepared. Language, pitch, tone, complexity,
all contribute to the impact of the message on the receiver.
Channel: Appropriate medium that prevents noise (disruption of transmission) as the message
travels.
Decoding: It is the duty of the receiver, who possesses a shared understanding with the sender, to
decode the message in exactly the same manner in which it is intended. Most important part of the
process. Misunderstanding/miscommunication can be disastrous at this level.
Feedback: The response of the receiver to the sender with regard to the message is called feedback.
It completes one cycle of communication, and may set off a further cycle. Successful communication
has been achieved if the desired intent of the sender has been effectively communicated to the
receiver. This is gauged from the feedback that is received at the end.

Characteristics of Communication:

1) It is a Two way Process: Order, directives, assessments, etc. flow downwards from the higher
levels to the employees, while grievances, reports, flow upwards from the worker to the
management.
2) Ongoing/Continuous Process: As has already been discussed, communication is/needs to be/
a continuous process for it to be effective.
3) Communications spans several networks.
4) Communication is always goal-oriented.
5) Communication is interdisciplinary All departments require effective communication for
their seamless functioning. While some departments like PR, HR, Marketing, relies heavily
on communication skills; others too utilize it in subtle pervasive ways.
6) Ideas, thoughts, feelings, and not just facts are the content of communication.

Functions of Communication:

According to Kohler, the following are the four major functions of communication:

1) Informative: A proper circulation of information, from upward to downward, and vice-


versa, is indispensable for the proper functioning of an organization. The management must
effectively convey directives, and the employees must similarly relay their grievances. Apart
from formal communication, informal information like employee benefits is also subsumed
under this category.
2) Regulative: Power, authority, legitimacy, credibility, compliance, are the distinguishing
factors of this function. The authority wielded by managers usually ensures compliance to
instruction. The credibility of the order, as well the legitimacy of the person in authority
would work primarily in ensuring the willingness of employees.
3) Persuasive: This function is closely intertwined with the regulative one. It is not necessary
that authoritative figures be listened to simply on the premise of their superiority. At such a
juncture, the nifty communication skill of persuasion comes in handy, and differentiates a
true leader. The ability to draw employee willingness and commitment is a significant
function of effective communication.
4) Integrative: Creating an environment of camaraderie and mutual growth through
participative decision is an integrative function. The employee should be made to feel that
their contribution to the organization is valued.

Apart from these major functions, there are also certain sub-functions that logically extend from
these aforementioned ones.

Brand creation Creating the image of the organization through PR, Marketing.
Advertising the brand and making it alluring for consumers.
Media relations Keeping the organization relevant, and projecting it as bankable.
Establishing a strong relation base with its customers. Taking stock of public opinion.
Financial communication by forging exemplary relations with investors, shareholders,
creditors, financial specialists and consultants.

Importance of Communication: (Business)

These pretty much include functions, purpose, and the other points that we have discussed over the
course of the two lectures.
Communication is the backbone of all business enterprises. It keeps up a healthy exchange of ideas,
feelings, information, and fosters units among all levels of functioning. It is important that the
organization remains updated on all technological advancements, and routinely conducts training
workshops to keep the employees in a similar loop. It is from such sessions that future leaders of the
firm are often scouted. These employees, in turn, need to stay eager, and have a respectful but visible
hand in as many of these interactions as possible.
Healthy employer, employee, customer, inter and intra-organizational communication skills have no
substitute in todays day and age.