Chapter 1: Introduction
Home Up Chapter 1: Introduction Chapter 2: Listening Chapter 5: Audience Analysis Chapter 7: Organizing Chapter 8: Delivery and Visual Resources Chapter 4: Small Group Communication Ch. 6, Being Credible Using Evidence Chapter 3: Interpersonal Communication

Human Communication

Chapter 1

Defining Communication

    Latin "communicare"—to share

    "Process of using messages to generate meaning"

      Process: Activity, exchange (communication is a two-way street between parties)

      Meaning: Shared understanding

Components of Communication

  1. People: Source/sender & Receiver/listener
  2. Message: Verbal/nonverbal content. Two types: One sent and one received.
  3. Channel/means: Means by which message moves (live, tv, radio, internet, etc.)
  4. Feedback: Receiver response (+/-)
  5. Code: Verbal and nonverbal symbols (language and nonverbal)
  6. Encoding: Put thought, idea into code (put thoughts into words)
  7. Decoding: Assign meaning to code (determine what person meant)
  8. Noise/Interference:
  9. Internal (in person) vs. external (environment)

  10. Communication situation: Mood, atmosphere, etc.

Communication Principles

  1. Communication begins with self: Our own self-concept, expectations, and communication skills play a role in how we communicate with others.
  2. Communication involves others: Everyone is different and so messages must be adapted to particular people and audiences. Communication competence has to do with being able to adapt. Also, think of communication as a dialogue--the act of taking part in a conversation, discussion or negotiation. It is not a one way street!
  3. One can not NOT communicate: Everything we do has communicative dimensions. Even when we don't acknowledge someone, we are sending a message that we don't wish to communicate with that person. Our clothing demeanor, etc. provide data to others. Thus, others are always taking meaning from us whether we mean them to or not. A lot of communication is thus unintentional but still, anything that influences another, is considered communication under this principle.    `
  4. Content and relationship dimension: Content dimension refers to the  literal meaning of a message; the relationship dimension is what the message comments on the relationship between parties. Example : Father says to son, "Go clean your room." On the content dimension the message means to that the father wants the son to simply clean his room. On the relationship dimension, the message means that the father has the power to tell the son what to do. Son then will then respond by either being submissive and cleaning room or may challenge the definition of the relationship by refusing to clean room.
  5. Communication is complicated: See full model with components to show complex nature of communication. This is why the "experts" in our "Veteran's and Rookies" exercise put the following, "Communication means that information is passed from one place to another" as the worst definition.

    The experts rated the following as the best definition:

    Communication does not refer to verbal, explicit, and intentional transmission of messages alone. . .The concept of communication would include all those processes by which people influence one another. . .This definition is based upon the premise that all actions and events have communicative aspects, as soon as they are perceived by the human being; it implies, furthermore, that such perception changes the information which an individual possesses, and, therefore, influences him.

    This definition highlights the role of verbal and nonverbal communication and takes unintentional communication into account. 'intentionality' into account. See the principle of "One can not Not communicate" for more information.
  6. Communication can not be reversed: You can not take back what you say/communicate. An apology will not "erase" an insult for example.
  7. Communication can not be repeated: Even giving the same message over and over, the meaning will be slightly different. Example: Giving the same speech to different audiences will yield different results because of the different people, different time, context, etc.

Goals of Communication Study

    Effective communication: Involves learning specific communication skills and knowing how and when to adapt those skills depending on the situation, people involved, etc.

    Ethics: The National Communication Association, NCA, provides "nine commandments" as ethical guidelines for communication:

    We advocate truthfulness, accuracy, honesty, and reason as essential to the integrity of communication.


    We endorse freedom of expression, diversity of perspective, and tolerance of dissent to achieve the informed and responsible decision making fundamental to a civil society.


    We strive to understand and respect other communicators before evaluating and responding to their messages.


    We promote access to communication resources and opportunities as necessary to fulfill human potential and contribute to the well-being of families, communities, and society.


    We promote communication climates of caring and mutual understanding that respect the unique needs and characteristics of individual communicators.


    We condemn communication that degrades individuals and humanity through distortion, intimidation, coercion, and violence, and through the expression of intolerance and hatred.


    We are committed to the courageous expression of personal convictions in pursuit of fairness and justice.


    We advocate sharing information, opinions, and feelings when facing significant choices while also respecting privacy and confidentiality.


    We accept responsibility for the short- and long-term consequences for our own communication and expect the same of others.

      Thus, common elements are:


      Freedom of expression

      Understanding, respect

      Condemnation of "hate" etc.

Communication contexts: A context is a set of circumstance or situation. Here are various communication contexts:

  1. Intrapersonal—self-to-self
  2. Interpersonal—2 people
  3. Small group—3 or more, interdependent
  4. Public—single source to # of receivers who provide feedback
  5. Mass—single source to # of unseen receivers


This website is maintained by Marceline Thompson Hayes,

This page last updated August 21, 2007

Arkansas State University