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Elements of Human Communication

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Communication is the essence of being human. There is little we do that isn’t communication, either within ourselves or to others. Communication is described as the transmission of meanings through the use of symbols, but communication involves gestures, eye contact, tones and body language as well. Even the method of delivering the message is part of the communication. The process of communication can be broken down into at least seven basic elements.

Source Idea

The source is the process by which an idea is formed. The idea can be influenced by any kind of external stimuli, such a book, movie or someone else’s conversation, or it can come from an internal process of thinking about a subject. The idea that is to be communicated is the basis of the communication.


The message is what is going to be communicated to the other party. Though it is based on the source idea or information, it can be tailored to meet the needs of the audience. For example, the crafting of the message may be quite different if delivered to a close friend or family member than if delivered to a stranger.


Encoding is how the message is put into the form in which it is transmitted to another person. It may be a written form, phone call or e-mail. Each method requires a different way of formulating the message.


The channel is the method by which the message is transmitted. The channel must be such that the basic message of the communication is not changed. The channel can be a sheet of paper, a microphone, an e-mail. It is the path of the communication from sender to receiver.


In any communication, there must be someone receiving the transmitted message. The receiver uses the channel to get the message from the sender--via a verbal message, say, or a television screen or sheet of paper.


The decoding process is one in which the message is interpreted. The receiver must think about the meaning of the message and internalize this meaning. Doing this interpretation depends a great deal on prior experiences of the receiver and external stimuli that might be occurring along with the message.


Feedback conveys to the sender that the message was received and understood. This requires formatting the response to the kind of channel being used to transmit it, and sending this response to the transmitter.

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