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The Three Basic Characteristics of Communication

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Humans communicate with each other in many different ways. According to the Boston Globe, approximately 6,900 different languages exist today. Human communications differs from other animal communications because of its symbols, depth and variety. Even though there are many different languages and forms of communications, basic characteristics unite those methods of communications.


Dr. Sue DeWine outlines many characteristics of human communications, but the characteristics begin with the self or individuality. Everyone is capable of communicating with one another if they choose. You must take the initiative to begin communications with others. Communications between people can be colored by emotions, environment, culture and other factors. An example of this characteristic is the way an Englishman from a higher class communicates his anger, compared to the anger expressed by an Englishman who comes from a lower social class or group. Each persons' ability and way of communicating begins internally.


Another basic characteristic of communications is its irreversibility. Once something is said, drawn or written, it cannot be taken back. Choosing the wrong words or communication method can harm a person emotionally. The communications can also be misinterpreted if the method of communications is not clear. The form or method of communication is important to this characteristic. Once communications is instigated, it is irreversible. It can be clarified later, but the damage is done once you communicate your thought.


According to some experts, such as Dr. Sue DeWine and James McCroskey, another basic characteristic of human communications is context or setting. Interpersonal, group, organizational and mass are the four settings where communication occurs. Interpersonal is communications between two people. Group communications exist between three or more individuals with a common goal or purpose. Organizational communications happens in an institution with a chain of command, common goals, and each person being communicated to has a specific task. Mass communication occurs through public media to a population.

Knowing the Characteristics

Knowing each of these basic characteristics helps you communicate better. Thinking before you speak, write or draw something allows the receiver to more effectively understand your meaning. Knowing in what context to communicate also allows you to communicate effectively with others. For example; communicating to steel workers in an organizational setting can be done effectively if you use terms they understand. Communicating the same information to a board of directors of that steel company is done differently, as is utilizing different terms and methods.