It's Saturday - finally! You look forward to seeing your best friend every Saturday morning to enjoy a cup of joe at the local café near a park where the waiter knows your orders before you even sit down. You both catch up on all the news of the week and share stories about your family and events that happened. As you listen to the events that happened in their week, you make a comment that seems to rub your bestie the wrong way. Seemingly irritated, they reply with a zinger.
Miscommunication. It happens to all of us! Let's break it down.
In all interactions, whether they be at school, home, or in the workplace, there are five core elements:
Understanding these elements and the dynamics of how they interact with each other is helpful in avoiding these awkward situations that we have all been apart of at some point in our lives.
The first element is the sender. You! The sender is the initiator of the communication process. The sender generates an idea, and then “encodes” that idea in a way that can be understood by the receiver of the message. Encoding includes any verbal and non-verbal actions that can be interpreted in some way by the audience, your friend. This encoding could be a smile, your tone of voice, the words you say, your body language, and everything in between. Your ability to encode your intended message will help your audience to understand the meaning that you intended for your message.
The second element is the channel. The channel is the medium upon which your message is carried. Channels can include everything from the face-to-face conversation you were having at the café to a simple text message on a cell phone. When you, the sender, choose a channel to transmit your message, you need to consider the target audience as well as the content of the message. Some things are best discussed in person so nothing is lost in translation, while other times an email or text message will work.
The receiver is the target audience for which your message was intended. A receiver could be an audience at a seminar, a family sitting at home watching an ad on television, or, in this case, your close friend. Your friend took your comment and went through an internal process known as decoding. Decoding is the concept of taking the sender’s verbal and non-verbal actions and translating them into ideas that the receiver can understand. Your friend’s ability to understand your message is dependent wholly on their ability to decode what you encoded. Because of this, it is important that you understand your receiver. Aside from your close friend at the café, your receiver may be an individual or a group of individuals from diverse backgrounds with their own opinions and beliefs that may differ from yours. Educating yourself on how to navigate diverse receivers will be helpful in avoiding offending someone.
Feedback is the witty zinger your friend threw back at you. It is the overall response of the initial message sent to the receiver. Feedback does not have to be sent back through the same communication channel through which the initial message was sent, and it does not need to be encoded in the same way. Just like the message itself, the feedback could be verbal or non-verbal. In this case, your friend could have expressed her displeasure with your comment through a frown or an uncomfortable laugh. The feedback could be any result that the initial message caused.
Noise may be the reason your friend took offense to what you said. Noise is anything that has an influence on the reception of the intended message. This could be something going on in your friend’s personal life that you did not know about, affecting their understanding of your message. It could be your prior assumptions about your friend’s sense of humor. It could even be something as simple as the siren of a police car barreling by the café. Noise is an inevitable part of communication learning how to mitigate internal and external noise will help bridge communication gaps.
We are all Senders and Receivers. We all share things, verbally and non-verbally, with one another. We are all constantly communicating with each other, whether we think we are or not. Understanding the elements of the communication process and thinking intentionally about communicating is key to building real, meaningful relationships with your friends, colleagues, and family members.