The communication process can be broken down into a series of eight essential components, each of which serves an integral function in the overall process:
The source imagines, creates, and sends the message. The source encodes the message by choosing just the right order or the best words to convey the intended meaning, and presents or sends the information to the audience (receiver). By watching for the audience’s reaction, the source perceives how well they received the message and responds with clarification or supporting information.
“The message is the stimulus or meaning produced by the source for the receiver or audience” (McLean, 2005, p. 10). The message brings together words to convey meaning, but nonverbal cues, organization, grammar, style, and other elements also contribute to the way it is conceived, conveyed, and received.
“The channel is the way in which a message or messages travel between source and receiver.” (McLean, 2005, p. 10). Spoken channels include face-to-face conversations, speeches, phone conversations and voicemail messages, radio, public address systems, and Skype. Written channels include letters, memorandums, purchase orders, invoices, newspaper and magazine articles, blogs, emails, text messages, tweets, and so forth.
“The receiver receives the message from the source, analyzing and interpreting the message in ways both intended and unintended by the source” (McLean, 2005, p. 10).
When you respond to the source, intentionally or unintentionally, you are giving feedback. Feedback is composed of messages the receiver sends back to the source. Verbal or nonverbal, all these feedback signals allow the source to see how well and how accurately (or how poorly and inaccurately) the message was received (Leavitt & Mueller, 1951).
“The environment is the atmosphere, physical and psychological, where you send and receive messages” (McLean, 2005, p. 10). Surroundings, people, animals, technology, can all influence your communication.
“The context of the communication interaction involves the setting, scene, and expectations of the individuals involved” (McLean, 2005, p. 10). A professional communication context may involve business suits (environmental cues) that directly or indirectly influence expectations of language and behaviour among the participants.
Interference, also called noise, can come from any source. “Interference is anything that blocks or changes the source’s intended meaning of the message” (McLean, 2005, p. 10). This can be external or internal/psychological. Noise interferes with normal encoding and decoding of the message carried by the channel between source and receiver.
Leavitt, H., & Mueller, R. (1951). Some effects of feedback on communication. Human Relations, 4, 401–410.
McLean, S. (2005). The basics of interpersonal communication. Allyn & Bacon.