Understanding the communication cycle
The communication cycle was developed by mathematicians Claude Elwood Shannon and Warren Weaver.
In any context, effective communication is the conveying and receiving of messages between individuals in a manner that is easily understood. The process of communication starts when a sender transmits a message to a receiver through a specific medium. Upon receiving the message, the receiver responds in an appropriate time frame – otherwise known as feedback. This simple back and forth example where the sender and receiver reciprocate roles represents the communication cycle.
The cycle can be used when messages are transmitted through writing or non-verbal (body language) means in a variety of different contexts.
Components of the communication cycle
In Shannon and Weaver’s interpretation, there are seven components to the cyclical process of communication.
The sender – otherwise known as the source – starts the cycle by deciding they have information they want to share. Before sending a message, the sender must ensure that it reaches the receiver in a way that the receiver understands. In other words, what is the purpose of the message? How should the receiver ideally react after receiving the message?
Encoding involves the sender deciding on how to best convey their message. Appropriate words, gestures, tones, and sounds are important and should be based on knowledge of the receiver. For example, authors who write children’s books usually communicate in short, sharp sentences with simple, child-friendly words.
The message is simply the piece of information a sender communicates. Messages are based on the information chosen and how the information is conveyed so that the receiver understands it.
The medium describes the means of communication. It may be a newspaper, computer screen, television, or radio. Each medium will be suited to a particular form of communication and subsequent audience.
The receiver is an important part of the communication cycle, for without someone to receive a message there can be no sender.
The receiver gathers sent information and then attempts to understand it. If successful, the receiver becomes the sender, and the cycle repeats. This is also known as feedback because the receiver responds to a message by broadcasting their views.
To ensure that the process runs effectively, messages must easily be decoded. For example, a video featuring Stephen Hawking communicating the wonders of astrophysics would be lost on most children. A travel article espousing the nuanced beauty of a particular destination may be unable to be communicated to readers who have never visited. Indeed, successful receiver decoding is often reliant upon individual thoughts, memories, and perspectives.
Invariably, there will be interferences in the communication cycle. This is called noise, which disrupts harmonious communication in several ways.
Noise can occur when the sender uses technical jargon in their messages that the receiver cannot understand. Those who speak with heavy accents may also experience problems with communication. The receiver can also contribute to noise. Distractions are common in this instance, perhaps the result of being ill or entering a communication with preconceived notions or judgments.
Lastly, noise can also be literal. Loud concerts are notorious for contributing to poor communication, as are slow internet connection speeds.
- The communication cycle describes the cyclical relationship in communication between a receiver and sender.
- In Shannon and Weaver’s interpretation, the communication cycle is based on seven core components.
- The communication cycle argues that effective communication relies on clear and accurate messaging easily interpreted and understood by each party. In any case, noise can contribute to ineffective communication through distortions in encoding and decoding among other things.
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