D. Sumathi

epgp books










Communication is a frequent part of the life. Because people communicate so often, it is sometimes assumed to be a simple process that anyone can master. People who find their ideas misinterpreted or ignored and those who try to listen to someone who is mumbling or rambling recognize and communication is a step toward improving its effectiveness. Technological advances have caused changes in the speed with which communication can take place and people can be informed of happenings anywhere in the world. These technological abilities help to communicate with each and every part of the world, almost simultaneously. Many changes at community and family levels are pre-dictated by present communication systems and new inventions. Every other day, new innovations are uploaded on mobiles and Internet communication systems. Thus, with the revolution in communication technologies, world seems to shrink to the level of global village. E-marketing, e-buying, on-line payment of bills, payments through mobiles, etc. are some of the current examples of advanced technologies in communication. Working from home, studying through online educational programmes, searching information on any topic from Internet has become an integral part of the social system




The objectives of this lesson are:


1. To understand meaning and significance of communication

2. To become aware of the key elements in communication

3. To give clear cut idea about means of effective communication


Meaning, definition and significance of communication


The word ‘communication’ means ‘to share: Communication among family members and members of near environment is closely interwoven. Its significance as a separate process has not been widely recognized. People often overlook communication because it is taken for granted.


Definition: Communication is the process of human interaction that involves generating, organizing and sending ideas to one or more receivers. The emphasis is on inter-personal interactions in an effective process of communication. The meaning sent in a message should be comparable to meaning received.


Many people have defined communication according to various purposes. The definition most applicable to family situation is given by Bienvenu (1967) as communication is a process of transmitting feelings, attitudes, facts, beliefs and ideas between living things and interpersonal communication includes all means by which individuals influence and understand each other.


Buchanan (1961) defines communication as a two-way reciprocal process of relating oneself to others and includes any action or actions by which meanings are shaped implicitly or explicitly.


Significance of Communication


It is an integral part of the social system. The highly integrative nature of communication in family and social systems stresses the importance of seeing communication as a complete process. it should be seen as a dynamic force in human development, interactions and in managerial behaviour of families. New communication technologies have a great impact on family and society but communication patterns which develop among family members are equally significant. Home is the place for growing up and, therefore, people should design ways to improve and enjoy communication among its group members.


Family has, since long, been considered as a managerial unit. In earlier phases of the development of discipline, home maker alone was considered as the manager of the family because she was greatly responsible for management of family resources. However, with changing role of the homemaker, the contribution of all family members to household management has increased and is being recognized. Thus, communication patterns which are necessary for delegation of work responsibilities and feedback have come to occupy a very important place in family resource management. Sharing of communication is regarded as a dynamic force which influences family’s style of management. Improved levels of communication are consciously sought by many families.


Communication is important in good quality of life. A family will not be able to demonstrate values, achieve goals or meet their needs without some inter-personal communication. The development of human resources, decision making skills and the managerial processes – all involve communication.


The purpose of communication is to change or to maintain behaviour. Family members express their needs and desires through communication. Confusion or lack n understanding of communication can frustrate goal attainment. People can influence their personal and social environment through communication. Behaviour of a person can be influenced by radio, television, neighborhood gossip, classroom noise, a pat on the back, or a frown on the face. This is because people constantly communicate and the ways in which family members interact with each other often become a habit. People feel that communication is a simple process which anyone can master but people who are misunderstood and who listen to people’s mumbling realize that communication is not always easy or effective.


Key elements in communication


Effective communication involves assigning comparable meanings to messages. It helps to clarify individual’s perception and can produce the cooperation needed to reach group goals. An understanding of components of communication helps to develop criteria for assessing effectiveness as communicator. The components of communication are perceiving meanings, sending messages, receiving messages and providing feedback.


1.  Perceiving Meaning: An individual reacts to the environment in his/her own way. Therefore, same stimulus can generate varied responses. Perceptions involve interaction between a person’s brain and a stimulus which can be a situation, an object, or an experience. Biological, psychological and social factors affect perception. These sensory inputs are combined and meaning is attached to what is seen, felt, heard, smelled or tasted. These combinations of sensory inputs over a period of time lead to conclusions which form the basis for future behaviour. Perception may or may not conform to what is happening as they may ignore some details and emphasize others or may vary with intentions and experiences of the perceiver. The degree of influence in a message depends partly on the accuracy with which the message conforms to the receiver’s perception.

  2.  Sending Messages: The sending of messages is the second component of communication. Within this part of the process, the sender may wish to consider if all ideas, facts, or feeling should be communicated. People may demonstrate the value of privacy by consciously withholding personal information. Other information may be irrelevant to a relationship or to a specific situation. If an idea, feeling, or experience is to be shared, it is then coded into words or other expressions. It can be helpful to clarify the purposes of messages in order to select apt codes.


Ideas, feelings or experiences are coded into words or other expressions to be shared with others. The codes or symbols must be such that they are understood by others if communication has to occur. Messages could be verbal or non-verbal. The non-verbal symbols include touch (hug or handshake), body movements (nodding, smiling) and sensory symbols (road, signs, sirens, painting, graphs etc.). Apart from this, the tone and rhythm of voice also conveys meaning. People who emphasize word choice in speaking or in listening without considering other forms of communication may face problems of accuracy in interaction because sometimes words convey different idea and nonverbal symbols convey another.


Channel for Communication: The most used channel for face to face communication is sound waves through the air. It includes extraneous sounds such as conversations, television sound, noise from fan etc. It is slow in comparison to other communication channels such as wires or cables as people generally talk at average rate of 125 words per minute and sound waves are adequately fast to handle inter-personal face to face communication.


Radio, telephone, television are some other media for communication. The selection of any of the above channel influences the speed and exactness of a message as well as the forms of communication that can be used. Compared to letters, the speed of telephone and mobiles is more immediate, as both words and tone, of voice are combined and feedback of some form is assured.


3.Receiving Massages: Some people can listen to more words per minute than others. It is found that average speaking rate is 125 words per minute but listening rate is 400 words per minute. The difference in this rate can be used by listener to understand the meaning of the message. Applying this knowledge, variable rate tape recorders allow receivers to increase the speed of a record message without making the speech unintelligible. In face-to-face communication, listeners can use the difference in speaking and listening rates to concentrate on the meaning of a message, to prepare an argument, to daydream, or for a number of other purposes, depending on their interest in sender and the message.


The message is decoded by the receiver in terms of personal experience. If the communication is unrelated or if the listener is not paying attention to the massage, the communication could end there. As words can be used in varied ways and as other forms of communication are combined with words, sensitive receivers consider both the meaning and context of communication in addition of words. Interpreting interpersonal communication too literally without concern for intent or context can minimize effectiveness of communication. Empathy can help listeners to sort out confusing messages and determine its meaning. Receivers are influenced not only by what is said but also by confidence of the sender. People prefer relationships with those holding similar ideas and beliefs. Therefore, a person is more receptive to messages that are based on religious, political, philosophical, or other notions similar to their own beliefs. The meanings attached to messages are likely to be misunderstood if there is distrust, fear or lack of confidence in a sender’s abilities.


Intended receivers may be able to decode the message more accurately if receiver is directly involved in the relationship with the sender. Hearing a part of message could cause mi understanding. When people other than the intended receivers are involved, it is possible that the content and forms of communication would be changed. The retention of messages is short-lived and, therefore, re-enforcement through seeing, hearing and touching can help people to remember messages that have been received. Because of the vast variety of messages received every day, people screen what they receive, accept some and ignore others, alter some meanings and reject still others.


At times, the messages can be altered by the receiver to such an extent that the sender no longer can recognize the message. If the idea or experience is shared several times, by several people, as in case of gossip, meaning may be seriously distorted. One-way messages stop after the decoding of message by the receiver. Such one-way communication is organized in presentations, eliminates noise, is fast, and offers little or no challenge to the sender’s power or expertise. But its limitation is that the sender does not know if the receiver has understood the meaning of the message. To correct misconceptions and expand knowledge, a two-way communication is of great help.


3.  Feedback: Feedback is the process of returning information, usually with the intention of influencing behavior. Thus, feedback turns one way communication into a cycle.


In a meeting, people may not speak out but their behaviors like falling asleep, yawning, fidgeting etc. send messages to the speaker. These non-verbal messages may or may not be correctly interpreted and/or even ignored by the speakers. Misinterpretation of non-verbal communication could either reduce speaker’s confidence or can create a false sense of confidence. In oral exchange between people, the receiver takes the role of sender by asking questions; and in reacting to messages, this interaction is rapid. Other type of communication can involve a number of sequences of sending and receiving and are called chains or loops. It is not necessary that communication results in changes in behaviours. At times, receiver understands messages but will not change behaviour as the message may conflict with his/her motivations. Also, if the proposed behavioural changes appear to be too difficult or too complex, it may be rejected as unrealistic. Some people feel that in such cases, communication has been ineffective.


Means of effective communication


As communication is interrelated to decision-making, the purposes of communication are closely related to purposes of decision making by families. These purposes include:


1.   To promote future oriented managerial processes: It is one of the purpose of communication. With increasing economic abundance and technological advancements and abundance of economic goods and services, families, in future, will be faced with more complex choices. They would need to consider long term consequences of their decision. The processes of goal setting and long-term planning would be important for families. Skills, including that of communication need to be developed for effective management. New attitudes related to realistic anticipation of future needs have to be developed.

  2.     To keep family moving: Relative consistency needs to be maintained within internal environment in our day to day household managerial activities. Routine procedures with daily activities and similar timings can be developed and utilized by family members. In such setting, family communication which takes place between families and their paid help or with persons in their near environment is also important in daily management to keep family and its social functions going.

3.   To maintain family interactions: Developing of satisfying types of interactions among family members is a goal which most families have even though they may not be conscious of it. Communication which occurs among family members while performing their household managerial activities contributes to their overall goal of improved interactions.

4.    To exchange information and understanding: The household tasks provide opportunity to husband and wife to communicate with each other and also with children. It also provides opportunities to other family members to communicate with each other, thereby, developing better understanding amongst them.

5.   To promote training and socialization of children: Parents are generally trying to teach their children ways to perform household managerial tasks with certain amount of guidance or independence. Various communication tactics are utilized by parents to train their children for managerial tasks. However, there is a great potential to teach children about household managerial tasks through effective communication.

6.    Communication is basic to family cooperation: There is a need for continued cooperation within a family, between families and other social units. The problem is how this cooperation can be maintained over a life time. It is suggested that collaboration should be used to achieve coordination and cooperation (Parsons, 1961). Collaboration implies that persons while interacting, regard themselves as members of the same system or group who is pursuing same goals and adopting methods of mutual adjustment. The family’s system of collaboration may change over time and could be modified, or shifted when some goals are achieved and new ones take their place or when family members leave the family unit.

    7.     Families can revise or renew their day to day cooperation in communication: Creative management involves encouraging special abilities of family members like judgment, motivation, leadership, sense of responsibility etc. in family centered tasks. Communication plays a central role in achievement of this goal.




Communication is an ongoing process which goes on between people. It is not an occasional or incidental behavior. People cannot stop communicating or being communicated with. Communication can be compared with basic needs of eating and breathing. It is important for a person’s intellectual and emotional existence. It involves flow of information. At interpersonal level, it is used by individuals to relate themselves to each other and through which they affect their cooperative endeavors. In a family, communication occurs as a managerial function of the family and plays an important role. Thus, communication processes are crucial processes which enable and determine the conditions, operations and the interrelationships of all living systems. Thus, the essence of human relations is communicating to and being communicated with.





. Three elements are necessary if communication has to take place. These are—a source, a message, and a receiver of communication. For example, the source may not have a clear idea about what he wants to communicate and therefore, the message he constructs is not clear. The source could also have a special feeling towards receiver such as dislike, distrust, fear etc. The physical environment could prevent the adequate transmission of message i.e. it could be noisy or extremely crowded. The most frequent difficulty is that the message might be incorrectly decoded by the receiver. All types of cues: verbal and nonverbal, could be used by family members to find out whether the other person has understood the message or not. If the feedback is not as expected, then the source can modify the message or drop it completely, depending upon its importance. 10. Process as a whole: The various components of the communication process should not be viewed as separate things, entities or people. They should be seen in a holistic manner as behaviours due to communication. More than one person may be involved and there may be several sources, encoders, receivers, decoders and messages. Also, one person may perform more than one set of behaviour. The division of process in units is necessary for analysis and careful study but for comprehensive understanding, the pieces should be seen as operating in the communication process as a whole.

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Suggested References


  • Argyle & Trower, Person to Person, Pp.42-45
  • Bandler, R. & Grinder, J., 1975, The Structure of Magic, Science & Behavior Books, Palo Alto, California,
  • Bretherton,I., 1992, The Origins of Attachment Theory: John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth, Developmental Psychology, Pp.28, 759-775 Bolton, People Skills, P.no.105.
  • C.E. Shannon. “A Mathematical Theory of Communication” (PDF). Math.harvard.edu. Retrieved 2017-05-01.
  • Danesi, Marcel (2009), Dictionary of Media and Communications. M.E.Sharpe, Armonk, New York.
  • Ferguson, Sherry Devereaux; Lennox-Terrion, Jenepher; Ahmed, Rukhsana; Jaya, Peruvemba (2014). Communication in Everyday Life: Personal and Professional Contexts. Canada: Oxford University Press. p. 464. ISBN 9780195449280.Greenfield, Mind and Media.
  • Randall J.A. (2014), Vibrational Communication: Spiders to Kangaroo Rats. In: Witzany, G. (ed). Biocommunication of Animals, Springer, Dordrecht. pp. 103-133. ISBN 978-94-007-7413-1.