Communication Elements: Overview
Communication is a complex process with multiple elements that often get overlooked. Communication involves you, yes, but is also a function of the other person, the relationship between you, the message itself, the context of the interaction, and your objectives. Even gender affects how you send messages and how they are received. Effective communication is a dynamic and active process—one that calls on you to juggle multiple factors at once to achieve your objectives.
Communication starts with you. You choose what words you say, and to whom you say them. You are the one who listens to others when they are talking. You bring “you” to every conversation and interaction, and that can affect communication, for better or for worse. The more you understand yourself in a communication exchange, the better you will be able to reach your goals.
Communication is not one-sided—it is a two-way process between you and another person. You can say all you want to someone else, but there is no guarantee that he or she will understand what you have to say or agree with your requests. But, you can learn to understand the other person better, predict their behaviors, and plan effective responses that will help you reach your communication objectives.
The message you send comprises more than the words you choose. How you say the words, when and how you deliver the message, and how you handle interferences all contribute to whether your message conveys and elicits what you intended. You can learn to be mindful about what you want to say, how you will say it, and possible external factors that can affect your message.
For women in a male-dominated field, gender is an unavoidable and important factor in communication processes. Gender dynamics shape how messages are both presented and interpreted. Becoming more aware of how the social expectations for women and men affect communication will help you be more effective in reaching your communication goals.
The environment in which you communicate and its associated norms, along with circumstances surrounding your interactions, contribute significantly to your experience of fit with your program and discipline. Recognizing how context influences how you are perceived and understood by others and learning to navigate it will benefit you in your communication efforts.
The outcome often refers to the end-point of an interpersonal exchange. Identifying in advance what you want to achieve from a particular interaction can help guide you in the communication process. Whether you are pursuing one objective or many, obtaining a desirable communication outcome will require understanding what’s really important to you and what is in your best interests professionally and personally.
In both personal and professional spheres, interpersonal communication is often about building and sustaining a relationship as much as conveying the content of a message. Understanding the role of interpersonal styles and power dynamics in communication will help you tailor your communications for specific relationships.
“Our first responsibility as effective listeners is to understand ourselves as communicators. Just as the sources of the communication message should be trained in self-intrapersonal communication, so, too, should listeners know themselves.”
“Any problem, big or small, always seems to start with bad communication. Someone isn't listening.”
An Arizona State University project, supported by the National Science Foundation under grants 0634519 and 0910384
Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views
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