Communication Cycle In A Nutshell

The communication cycle is a linear model of communication. Through schematic representation, the communication cycle details the relationship between sender, message, medium, and recipient.

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.

During the encoding process, it’s critical to clarify various aspects such as:

  • What language are you going to use?
  • What communication medium?
  • What’s the appropriate form and format of communication?

This helps making the communication cycle way more effective down the road.


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.

Medium (channel)

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.

In the decoding process, you want to consider all the main aspects that can affect it.

Things like:

  • Communication channel proficiency: are sender and receiver aligned in terms of understanding and ability to use the same communication channel?
  • Shared mental models: do encoder and decoder share a similar way of deciphering the real world? So they can better understand each other? Cultural alignment might help with that.
  • Noise: What noise affects that channel, and can it be reduced?


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.

Noise is any factor that interferes with or impedes effective communication between a sender and receiver. When noise disrupts the communication process or prevents the transmission of information, it is said to be communication noise.

In general, there are a few kinds of noises that we want to take into account which might affect the communication cycle:

Key takeaways

  • 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.

How to use The Communication cycle diagram

A communication cycle diagram is any that illustrates the transmission of information between two or more entities. Communication cycle diagrams are used to describe how information is transmitted during communication. 

These diagrams are used to depict communication models that are:

  • Interactional – or models that define communication as an interactive process between the sender, receiver, and feedback.
  • Transactional – more dynamic models that consider senders and receivers to be communicators. In essence, transactional models view communication as a cooperative process where both entities contribute to the outcome and effectiveness of the interaction.

By their very nature, communication cycle diagrams are not used to represent linear communication models such as the Shannon-Weaver model. Here, the communication process is one-way and not cyclical. 

Components of a communication cycle diagram

While the exact composition of a communication cycle diagram will vary from model to model, most will describe the following core components:

  1. Sender – the individual or entity wishing to transmit a message. Effective transmission relies on crafting a message the receiver will understand and take the desired action on. In some models, this process is known as encoding.
  2. Message – or the information the sender wishes the audience to receive and then understand. The message may be written, oral, or non-verbal in nature.
  3. Transmission – how is the message transmitted? It could be via email, television, text, letter, telephone, or face-to-face.
  4. Noise – this is any factor that can impede or interfere with message transmission. Noise can be literal, which is often experienced with a poor television or phone signal. But it can also take the form of non-literal sources such as the accent of the speaker or their culture, level of understanding, or emotions. Language barriers are also a prime source of noise in the communication cycle.
  5. Receiver – the receiver is the individual or entity that receives the message and seeks to understand its purpose or intention. In some models, this process is known as decoding.
  6. Feedback – when the receiver transmits a message back to the sender based on their original message, this is known as feedback. This is an important part of the communication cycle because feedback tells the sender their message was understood in the way they intended. However, in some cases, the receiver may ask for clarification if the message was impeded by noise. Feedback may be verbal or non-verbal.

Breaking down the communication cycle diagram

  • A communication cycle diagram is any that illustrates the transmission of information between two or more entities.
  • Communication cycle diagrams are used to depict interactional and transactional communication models. By their very nature, these diagrams are not used to represent linear communication models such as the Shannon-Weaver model.
  • Communication cycle diagrams tend to have the following components: sender, message, transmission, noise, receiver, and feedback. The precise components, and indeed their definitions, will vary from one communication model to the next.

The six primary components of a communication cycle are sender, encoding, message, medium, receiver, decoding, and noise. The communication process starts with a sender transmitting a message to a receiver through a medium. The receiver responds in an appropriate time frame (feedback). This simple back-and-forth example where the sender and receiver reciprocate roles represents the communication cycle.

Communication permeates society, one of the most critical pieces that make up group dynamics. Indeed, we can build effective businesses connecting millions of people worldwide by understanding how communication works.

Read Next: Lasswell Communication Model, Linear Model Of Communication.

Connected Communication Models

Aristotle’s Model of Communication

The Aristotle model of communication is a linear model with a focus on public speaking. The Aristotle model of communication was developed by Greek philosopher and orator Aristotle, who proposed the linear model to demonstrate the importance of the speaker and their audience during communication. 

Communication Cycle

The linear model of communication is a relatively simplistic model envisaging a process in which a sender encodes and transmits a message that is received and decoded by a recipient. The linear model of communication suggests communication moves in one direction only. The sender transmits a message to the receiver, but the receiver does not transmit a response or provide feedback to the sender.

Berlo’s SMCR Model

Berlo’s SMCR model was created by American communication theorist David Berlo in 1960, who expanded the Shannon-Weaver model of communication into clear and distinct parts. Berlo’s SMCR model is a one-way or linear communication framework based on the Shannon-Weaver communication model.

Closed-Loop Communication

Closed-loop communication is a simple but effective technique used to avoid misunderstandings during the communication process. Here, the person receiving information repeats it back to the sender to ensure they have understood the message correctly. 

Helical Model of Communication

The helical model of communication is a framework inspired by the three-dimensional spring-like curve of a helix. It argues communication is cyclical, continuous, non-repetitive, accumulative, and influenced by time and experience.

Grapevine Communication

Grapevine communication describes informal, unstructured workplace dialogue between employees and superiors. It was first described in the early 1800s after someone observed that the appearance of telegraph wires strung between transmission poles resembled a grapevine.

Lasswell Communication Model

The Lasswell communication model is a linear framework for explaining the communication process through segmentation. Lasswell proposed media propaganda performs three social functions: surveillance, correlation, and transmission. Lasswell believed the media could impact what viewers believed about the information presented.

Modus Tollens

Modus tollens is a deductive argument form and a rule of inference used to make conclusions of arguments and sets of arguments.  Modus tollens argues that if P is true then Q is also true. However, P is false. Therefore Q is also false. Modus tollens as an inference rule dates back to late antiquity where it was taught as part of Aristotelian logic. The first person to describe the rule in detail was Theophrastus, successor to Aristotle in the Peripatetic school.

Five Cannons of Rhetoric

The five canons of rhetoric were first organized by Roman philosopher Cicero in his treatise De Inventione in around 84 BC. Some 150 years later, Roman rhetorician Quintilian explored each of the five canons in more depth as part of his 12-volume textbook entitled Institutio Oratoria. The work helped the five canons become a major component of rhetorical education well into the medieval period. The five canons of rhetoric comprise a system for understanding powerful and effective communication.

Communication Strategy

A communication strategy framework clarifies how businesses should communicate with their employees, investors, customers, and suppliers. Some of the key elements of an effective communication strategy move around purpose, background, objectives, target audience, messaging, and approach.

Noise if Communication

Noise is any factor that interferes with or impedes effective communication between a sender and receiver. When noise disrupts the communication process or prevents the transmission of information, it is said to be communication noise.

7 Cs of Communication

The 7Cs of communication is a set of guiding principles on effective communication skills in business, moving around seven principles for effective business communication: clear, concise, concrete, correct, complete, coherent, and courteous.

Transactional Model of Communication

The transactional model of communication describes communication as a two-way, interactive process within social, relational, and cultural contexts. The transactional model of communication is best exemplified by two models. Barnlund’s model describes communication as a complex, multi-layered process where the feedback from the sender becomes the message for the receiver. Dance’s helical model is another example, which suggests communication is continuous, dynamic, evolutionary, and non-linear.

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