Communication: Meaning, Characteristics, Mass Communication

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ugc net communication






Meaning of Communication

The termcommunication is derivedfrom the Latinword “communis” or “communicare” which means to make common.Thus communication meansto make commonfacts, information’s, thoughts and requirements. Communication thereforeis the exchange of thoughts,message, information etc. by way of speech, signalor in writing. Communication is a two-wayprocess and works well with feedback, this helps to confirm that intended message has been successful.

 Scholar Definition of communication

In order to understand further, many scholars have defined the term such as

Communication is the sum of all things, one person does when he wants to create understanding in the minds of another. It involves a systematic and continuous process of telling, listening and understanding.”

Allen Louis

Communication has been defined “As the transfer of information from one person to another whether or not it elicits confidence.”

Koontz and O’ Donell

“Communication is an exchange of facts, ideas, opinions or emotions by two or more persons.”

George Terry

“Communication is the process by which information is transmitted between individuals and/or organization so that an understanding response results”.

By Peter Little

“Communication is an exchange of facts, ideas, opinions or emotions by two or more persons”.

By W.H. New man and C.F. summer Jr.

Communication is effective when a concise and clear message is delivered well, received successfully and understand fully. The process of communication has the following distinct components:

Communication begins with an impulse (or motivation) to pass on a message made up of bits of information. In the process of encoding, units of information are selected and organized for transmission. Input is the sum of experiences that build up in the human brain or computer.

The outputis the encoded message transmitted by the information source (an individual person or group of people). The interpretation of the message is referred to as decoding.

Feedback is the response or message that the recipient (decoder) returns to the sender (encoder).

The sender has an idea

Sender encodes the idea

The sender transmits the message through a medium

The receiver gets the message

The receiver decodes the message

Receiver sends feedback

Feedback in the communication process is the response that gives us some indication of how effectively we communicate. It is the gauge of efficiency in communication


Based on whom the message is addressed

We classify communication according to the number of persons (receivers) to whom the message is addressed:

C:%5CUsers%5CELCOT ~1%5CAppData%5CLocal%5CTemp%5Cmsohtmlclip1%5C01%5Cclip image001Intrapersonal Communication: It is talking to oneself in one’s own mind. Examples are soliloquies or asides in dramatic works.

Interpersonal Communication: It is the exchange of messages between two persons.

For example, a conversation, dialogue or an interview in which two persons interact

(Others may also be present as the audience). An author communicates interpersonally with his reader, who is always present as a silent audience in the author’s mind while he writes. A letter too is an example of interpersonal communication between the writer and the person to whom it is written.

C:%5CUsers%5CELCOT ~1%5CAppData%5CLocal%5CTemp%5Cmsohtmlclip1%5C01%5Cclip image002Interpersonal Communication: It can be among small or large groups, like an organization, club or classroom, in which all individuals retain their individual identity.

C:%5CUsers%5CELCOT ~1%5CAppData%5CLocal%5CTemp%5Cmsohtmlclip1%5C01%5Cclip image001Interpersonal Communication: It occurs when the message is sent to large groups of people, for example, by newspaper, radio, or television. In this process, each person becomes a faceless individual with almost no opportunity for personal response or feedback.


Based On the basis of the medium employed


C:%5CUsers%5CELCOT ~1%5CAppData%5CLocal%5CTemp%5Cmsohtmlclip1%5C01%5Cclip image001Verbal Communication: It means communicating with words, written or spoken. Verbal communication consists of speaking, listening, writing, reading, and thinking. It may further be classified as Oral or Written Communication.


Non-verbal Communication:

It includes using of pictures, signs, gestures, and facial expressions for exchanging information between persons. It is done through sign language, action language, or object

Language. Non-verbal communication flows through all acts of speaking or writing. It is a Wordless message conveyed through gestures (sign), movements (action language), and Object language (pictures/clothes) and so on. Further non-verbal communication can be Identified by personal space (proxemics), sense of smell (olfactics) and time (chronemics).

Meta Communication:

Here the speaker’s choice of words unintentionally communicates something more than what the actual words state. For example, a flattering remark like “I’ve never seen you so smartly dressed” could also mean that the regular attire of the listener needed improvement.

Formal Communication: 

A formal channel of communication can be defined as a means of communication that is formally controlled by managers or people occupying positions in an organization. The communication flows through formal channels, that is, officially recognized positions along the line in the organization. This ensures that the information flows orderly, timely, and accurately. Any information, decision, memo, reminder etc. will follow this path.


Informal Communication:

Side by side with the formal channel of communication every organization has an  equally effective channel of communication that is the informal channel. It is not officially sanctioned,   and quite often it is even discouraged or looked down upon. But, then, it is very much there and has been given the name ‘grapevine’ preciselybecause it

Runs in all directions-horizontal, vertical, diagonal. As the management experts put it, “it flows around water coolers, down hallways, through lunch rooms, and wherever people get together in groups”.


Downward Communication:

The Communication that flows from Top to Bottom is known as downward communication. Any organization has an inbuilt hierarchical system, and in that, in the first instance, communication invariably flows downwards.


Upward Communication:

The Communication that flows from bottom to top, which is from lower hierarchical level to Higher level is called Upward Communication. The main function of upward communication   Is to supply information to the upper levels about what is happening at the lower levels. It is Just the reverse of the previous dimension


Lateral Communication:

When communication takes place between two or more persons who are subordinates Working under the same person or those who are working on the same level, it is called

Lateral or horizontal communication. A good example of this kind of communication is that Between functional managers. It is necessary for the reviewing of the activities assigned to Various subordinates having identical positions


Diagonal Communication:

Diagonal or Crosswise communication includes the flow of information among persons at

Different levels who have no direct reporting relationships. As an example,the Communication between the Training Supervisor and Marketing Manager,regarding the Trainingof a few employees of the Marketing Department, is Diagonal Communication. This kind of communication is used to speed up information flow, to improve understanding, and to coordinate efforts for the achievement of organizational objectives.


Characteristics of communication

It involved two persons

Message is must

Communication May be Written, Oral or Gestural:

Communication is a Two Way Process

Its Primary Purpose is to Motivate a Response

Communication may be Formal or Informal

It Flows Up and Down and also from Side to Side

It is an Integral Part of the Process of Exchange

Objectives/Purpose of Communication

The objectives of communication are dynamic and ever-changing. Some of the common objectives of official communication are to get or give information, to ask for or give instructions or advice or suggestions, to make requests,to persuade other people to agree with us.

Sometimes, we communicate with the intention of complaining, or warning; but unfortunately, we do this angrily and get into arguments. If we learn to complain and warn in an acceptable and constructive manner, our serious intention can be conveyed quite effectively without damaging relationships.

In order to caution, counsel, clarify, apprise, evaluate, reprimand, and organize and numerous such objectives, we make use of communication.


Evaluation of Communication Effectiveness

Communication is not an end in itself; rather it is a means to attain other ends or goals. Hence,

it has to be effective to be able to attain these goals or objectives. Communication effectiveness can be examined in relation to the followingcriteria:

Fidelity of Communication: the distortion free quality of a message is called fidelity. An effective person gets the message across to others with minimal possibilities of misunderstanding.

Economy: In an effective communication a minimum of energy time, symbols and cues  are used to encode messagewithout losing its fidelity and impact.

Congruence: An effective communication integrates both verbal and non-verbal cues.

Influence: The most important criterion of effectiveness is the influence that the communicator is able to exercise over the receiver of the communication. Influence means the communicator achieve the resultshe intended.

Relationship Building: effective communication contributes to the building of trust and a better relationship between the source and the target.


Seven C’s of Effective Communication

  • Completeness
  • Conciseness
  • Consideration
  • Clarity
  • Concreteness
  • Courtesy
  • Correctness

Four S’s of Communication

  • Shortness
  • Simplicity
  • Strength
  • Sincerity

Types of Communication Barriers

Semantic barriers

This barrier is related to the process of coding and decoding the message. Various types of semantic gaps found in day-to-day use of people are as follows:

Words having similar pronunciation but multiple meaning: Same pronunciation but are having many meanings.For example: sight, site, cite.

Badly expressed message: Lack of clarity and precision make the message badly expressed. Lacks of coherence, awkward sentence structure, jargons etc. are common faults, which lead to such messages.

Wrong interpretation: Whenever one interprets a symbol, his understanding may differ with others. The Hindi word ‘kaka’ means uncle in one part of the country but small boy  in another part of the country.

Technical Language: When technical language is used in the communication process, it creates barriers in understanding the message in the same sense and in the same spirit. When technical jargons or specialist languages are used in the communication and conversation process, they create tension,confusion and misunderstanding between the sender and the receiver.



New meanings given to ordinary words by computer technology; to people who are not familiar with computers, “mouse” is only an animal, where as in computer jargon, it is a device.


Organizational Barriers


It may originate in contradictory management policies, or too many levels of management or the clash between line and staff operations. The specialized nature of functions or even the special language of those functions may cause it. It may have its source in formal informal, or grapevine transactions. Following are the organizational barriers in communication:

C:%5CUsers%5CELCOT ~1%5CAppData%5CLocal%5CTemp%5Cmsohtmlclip1%5C01%5Cclip image004

Organization culture and climate: 

In every organization, there exists a unique culture and climate. The climate and culture of an organization ultimately influence the freedom, thrust and interaction pattern among people in an organization.

C:%5CUsers%5CELCOT ~1%5CAppData%5CLocal%5CTemp%5Cmsohtmlclip1%5C01%5Cclip image006Organizational rulesand regulations:

The rules and regulations of the organization vary widely from one organization to another. They may be so rigid that they may influence the flow of information in a wrong direction.

C:%5CUsers%5CELCOT ~1%5CAppData%5CLocal%5CTemp%5Cmsohtmlclip1%5C01%5Cclip image008Status relationships: 

The status, power and position relationship acts as the hurdle in the effectiveness of communications. Individuals may not be able to say what they wish to    say because of their fear for the position and power of the other party in the communication process. The complex hierarchical structure of the organization like too   tall or too much of divisionalisation of the organization may not facilitate the free flow of communication.

C:%5CUsers%5CELCOT ~1%5CAppData%5CLocal%5CTemp%5Cmsohtmlclip1%5C01%5Cclip image010Lack of cooperation between superior and subordinate:

 There may not be proper cooperation between the superior and subordinate for various personal or organizational relationships, which may held to improper communication in an organization.


Interpersonal Barriers


The effectiveness of Communication depends a lot on the interpersonal relationship between two people. If and when the sender and receiver are at the same economic, educational and status level and also have good rapport with each other, there is hardly any barrier arising in communication. But, in case of a difference at any level, there is a greater chance of

Miscommunication. The most common example for this in an organization is the Barriers

relating to Superior and Subordinate. The subordinate must follow the order of the superior, carry out all work efficiently, and provide full information related to any matter, which arises in the organization or in any work. Moreover, the superior should have full confidence in himself and the subordinate.

Lack of proper channel: There may be complexity in the organizational structure, which may influence proper and effective communication from the subordinate. They may not feel free to communicate because of the pressure of position power and authority.

No interest to communicate: There may not be any interest on the part of subordinates to have a dialogue, discussion and interaction with their superiors, which affect the communication process adversely.



Lack of cooperation: lack of cooperation and mutual understanding also leads to the hiding of certain information between the superior and subordinates in the organization.

Lack of trust: There may be lack of trust and coordination between the superior and the subordinate, which may lead to infective communication.

The poor relationship between superior and subordinate: A good relationship must develop between superiors and subordinates frequently and freely. They must interact to improve the upward and downward communication system. The superior must listen to the subordinates’ suggestion, their problems, and must have faith  in  them.  In  the absence of all this, it may so happen that what the superior speaks, the subordinate may not understand it.

Fear of penalty: If subordinate fees that because of free expression and upward communication he will face some type of penalty, there is a possibility that he may not provide a full or correct message to the superior.


Individual / Psycho-sociological Barriers:

Individual or Psycho-sociological barriersare the prime barriers in interpersonal communication. People have different styles of communication. People also have personal feelings, desires, fears, hopes, likes, dislikes, attitudes, views and opinions. The meaning assigned to a message depends upon the emotional or psychological statusof both the parties involvedin the process of communication.


Selective perception: The receiver may make a world of his own around himself. He projects his interest and expectations as he decodes messages. He may only take that much piece of information, which may suit his world of thinking.As a result, the person acquires incomplete and inappropriate information, which influence the communication process. Having a poor self-concept or self-understanding, or a poor understanding of other can cause perceptual distortions.

Halo effect: People do not listen carefully because of impressions based on earlier encounters. Even one of the parties having a halo effect will disrupt the flow of communication.

  • Status relationship
  • Poor attention and Retention
  • Inattention
  • Undue importance of written words
  • Defensiveness
  • Closed Mind
  • State of Health

Filtering: Filtering is the process of reducing the details or aspects of a message. Each person who receives the message reduces it according to his or her understanding of  the situation. In this process, much of the important information may be lost or

misinterpreted and the sender will fail to convey what he wants to convey.


Cross-Cultural/ Geographic Barriers:

Culture is a shared set of values and attributes of a group; it is the sum total of the ways of living built up by a group and transmitted from one generation to another. Culture is so much a part of an individual’s manner of talking, behaving and thinking, that communication style and competence are influenced by it.

Some of the significant differences between cultures are:

  • National Character/ Basic Personality.
  • Language
  • Values and norms of behavior
  • Social relationships
  • Concepts of time
  • Concepts of space
  • Nonverbal communication
  • Perception
Physical Barriers/ Channel and Media Barriers

Physical distractions cause a lot of noise, often literally: insufficiently insulated rooms with car noises filtering through, poor lighting, and such things as frequent movement of bodies postures, with a pen in the hand, even the arrival of coffee at a critical stage on the communication process are the causes of communication barriers in organizations. Constant telephone interruptions are one of the commonest physical distractions. These obstacles prevent a message from reaching the intended recipient. 

The following obstacles  are considered under this category:

  • Noise
  • Defects in the Medium



A few technical aspects in communication barriers are briefly narrated by Murphy’s Law on Communication: Following are the basics in this law on communication:

Communication usually fails. Except by chance, it succeeds. On account of various barriers, the possibility of success in the flow of communication is rare.

If the message can be understood, in different ways, it will be understood in just the way that does the most harm. People receive the massage in their own way. In most of the cases, the most harmful side of communication is considered.

It refers to the sendermanipulating information so that the receiver will see it as more favorable. In organizations, the information is condensed and synthesized. Objective information does not reach to the authority. The more the vertical levels in the organization’s hierarchy, the more opportunities there are for filtering.

Metacommunication. In a communication apart from the message, there is a Meta

message. Meta message exists in the people’s minds because of their actions such as being hard to contact. It is the most important thing in seat word language.

Noise in communication process. Noise can enter the communication process because   of situational factors.It is one of the factors influencing the communication process.

Noise is mostly related to mechanical distractions. A few noise distractions are as



follows: (i) Human sounds, (ii) Traffic, (iii) Telephone instruments (iv) Channel defects (v) Birds (vi) Trees (vii) Fans (viii) Chalk writing (ix) Use of Duster (x) Projector and (xi) Nasal Voice



Constant effort is required to overcome the barriers which unconsciously creep up in the process of Communication. Barriers can be overcome if sufficient effort is put into the communication process and it is desired that communication be effective and efficient.

One way of reducing the effects of these barriers is to check continuously during the communication process what the massage really is. The actions to be taken by the Sender, Receiver and together the two of them, to achieve this are listed below:

S ender: The sender should be clear about the following Ws and H:

WHO To who should the message go?

WHY Why should I communicate? What are the motives?

WHAT decide what to communicate? Be clear about what one needs to communicate.

WHENthe best time for optimum reception is chosen.

HOW Use a language, which the receiver will understand and which is unambiguous.

WHERE: Choose a location which will not interfere with the reception, understanding and acceptance of the message: Privately? Home or away? In a group? At work or outside?

R eceiver: The receiver can be aware about the following, to overcome the barriers:

Be fully attentive to sender.

Listen actively to the message being sent.

Ask for clarification and repetition wherever necessary.

Keep checking the receipt of information with sender.

B oth: Receiver and Sender can make the Communication Flawless if they:

Realize that misunderstandings are bound to occur, and be alert for all cues to this effect.

Listen, listen, listen, and listen again.

Share opinions, feelings and perceptions generated by the me

Mass Communication & mass media

Outside the realm of interpersonal communication exists another form of communication, which involves communication with mass audiences and hence the name mass communication; and   the channels throughwhich this kind of communication takes place are referred to as mass




Mass communication is the term used to describe the academic study of various means by

which individuals and entities relay information to large segments of the population all at once through mass media.

It is observed that the term mass communication must have at least five aspects: Large audience

Fairly undifferentiated audience composition Some form of message reproduction

Rapid distribution and delivery Low cost to the consumers


Characteristics of Mass communication:

Anonymous Large audience

Fairly undifferentiated audience composition Some form of message reproduction

Rapid distribution and delivery Low cost to the consumers

Directs messages toward relatively large, heterogeneous and anonymous audience. Messages are transmitted publicly no privacy.

Short duration message for immediate consumption Feedback is indirect, non-existent or delayed

Cost per exposure per individual is minimum Source belongs to organization or institutions Mostly one way


Types of mass media

  • Traditional media
  • Printmedia
  • Electronic media
  • Social media


Functions of mass media

In a society like ours, mass media have a responsible role to play in fostering democracy, plurality and communal harmony through the functions listed below.

Information and education.

  • Socialization
  • Entertainment
  • Political awareness
  • Cultural transmission


Importance of Mass media



  • -Pervasiveness of Mass Media
  • -Mass Communication Informs
  • -Mass Media Entertains
  • -Mass Communication Persuades
  • -Mass Communication Binds

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