Importance of Communication
Communication plays an important role in every sphere of life and every field ranging from academics to professional world (Ferber et al., 2003). As stated by Motschnig & Rayback (2016), teams that communicate are more likely to complete their projects more efficiently and before the set deadline as compared to others. However, the effectiveness of communication has a significant contribution in making the communication process successful.
I would like to refer to an incident of communication problem, where my team members failed to act on my communication as directed to them. We were doing a team project that was lead by me. I planned for a group discussion and sent a text message through mobile phone to all my team members stating “We would have a group discussion in our college library” (at 11am went missing due to disruption in phone network). As a result, none of my team members appeared for the discussion and our project got delayed.
In accordance with the communication model developed by Shannon and Weaver, I was the sender, telephone network company was the encoder, mobile network was the channel, mobile phone was the decoder and the team members were the receiver. What went wrong in the communication process was the noise i.e. disruption in the mobile phone network that resulted in missing text that made the team members receive incomplete message. A very important element was ignored by my team members i.e. feedback. If, at least one of the team members had sent a feedback stating ‘at what time?’ I would have understood that they had received incomplete message and ensured the group discussion actually takes place.
According to Shannon and Weaver, there are three levels of communication problems- technical, semantic and effectiveness problem. It was not that the meaning of the message sent was different from what was received by the team members (semantic problem) (Delone & McLean, 203). Effectiveness problem was present to a certain extent. This is because my text message (in spite of being incomplete) did not cause reaction effectively. However, it was majorly a technical problem that focuses on the way a communication channel causes problem. Thus, I would say, in this case, it was a combination of technical and effectiveness problem that affected the effectiveness of the communication process. I believe technical problem is more critical in nature as compared to others since it is beyond our control and increases the chances of being misunderstood. My team members might have felt that I was very casual with the group discussion and thus, did not bother to set a time for the discussion.
There are three key barriers to communication- physical, socio-psychological and temporal (Werner et al., 1992). Distortion and noise are the two types of physical barriers. Distortion refers to the loss of the meaning of the message during encoding and/or decoding (Beamish, 2006). This indicates that human perception plays an important role in this context as it often changes the meaning of messages based on own views. Noise indicates the disruption in the environment in which the communication takes place. In the incident explained above, noise was the dominant barrier. Technical disturbance was the key cause behind the physical barrier (noise) i.e. problem in the phone network. According to Fischhoff et al. (2012), mechanical or technical breakdowns like no network coverage, virus attack etc. can occur any time and thus, mediums cannot be trusted to be highly effective. I went wrong in this context by relying solely on the mobile network to deliver my entire message effectively. It would have been safer if I had made some arrangements for obtaining a confirmation from my team members for attending the group discussion at the time I planned for.
There are eight vital socio-psychological barriers to communication- attitude & opinion, emotions, status difference, inattention close mind, distrust, poor retention and premature evaluation (Fischhoff et al., 2012). Among these barriers, inattention would be applicable in the above incident to a certain extent. This is because none of the team members paid attention to my message and thus, I did not receive any query related to the time of the group discussion. Information overload is generally considered a temporal approach. In the era of rapid technological advancement and increasing marker competition, messages reach to the people in countless number and through wide variety of channels like e-mail, memo and voice mail etc. As a result, there are high chances of the development of temporal barrier to communication as it becomes difficult for the individuals to absorb excessive information that is beyond human capacity.
Although I did not get a scope to implement a strategy for overcoming the barriers, I have given key focus on this context in every team work since after this incident. I no more rely on a single communication channel. Trusting a single channel of communication is disadvantageous as every channel has its own flaws (Conrad & Poole, 2012). Therefore, I make sure that I communicate either through e-mail or video conferencing and get a written confirmation through e-mail. Video conferencing helps in clarifying the doubts of the team members on the spot and e-mail provides an assurance of the delivery of the complete message. On the other hand, a confirmation mail (feedback) provides a certain level of certainty that my message has not been interpreted inappropriately. According to Mannan (2013), feedback plays a vital role in the communication process as it ensures that the receiver has properly understood the information sent by the sender.
It is often seen that wrong presentation of the symbols without having a clear idea about the purpose and nature of the receiver(s) hurt their feelings. At the same time, misleading symbols can distort the expected impact of the presentation. This is known as “instructional barriers of communication” that generally occurs due to the cultural differences between the sender and receiver (Silber & Foshay, 2009). Thus, it is essential to take into consideration the cultural background, religion and community of the listener(s) in the communication process. In accordance with the Cs of communication proposed by Cutlip in 1952, it is essential to focus on seven key factors during a communication process to eliminate or minimise the chances of the occurrence of potential barriers- clarity, credibility, content, context, continuity, capability and channel.
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