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Communication | Definition, Process, Types, Importance

Communication | Definition, Process, Types, Importance


Communication is derived from the Latin word ‘Communico’ which means “to share”. Hence the word “communication” means the process of sharing. One may ask, sharing what? Obviously – sharing information, which could be facts, ideas, thoughts, feelings, needs, etc. This sharing takes place from one person to another so that it is understood. This process involves a systematic and continuous process of speaking, listening, and understanding. Therefore, Communication is a process, which involves sharing of information between people through a continuous activity of speaking, listening, and understanding.

Communication Definition

Communication is a process of providing or sharing information, facts, ideas, message, or thoughts to other. 

Why is Communication Important?

Communication is a learned skill. Most people are born with the physical ability to talk. But to speak well and communicate effectively you have to learn the art and improve upon your ability to talk. Speaking, listening, and our ability to understand verbal and nonverbal meanings are the skills we develop in various ways. We learn basic communication skills by observing other people and changing our behaviors based on what we see. We also learn communication skills directly through education, practice, and constant evaluation of the responses we get from people around us. The importance of communication has always been realized in all times because it is the most vital means by which people are connected together in society. However, today communication plays a crucial role in almost all aspects of life. Work in business, government, or organizations is impossible without communication. People have to communicate with each other, exchange information, make decisions, talk about new ideas, plans, proposals, etc. They also have to communicate externally with foreigners and people of other races and languages.

  • For a moment, turn your eyes inward and see how much of your waking hours you spend in communication. Nearly 70% – writing, reading, speaking, & listening. 
  • As a college student, 69 percent of your communication time is spent on speaking and listening. 
  • You spend 17 percent of your communication time on reading and 14 percent writing. 

Don’t forget, therefore, that communication is inevitable in one’s life. Today, in this age & world, a successful person is the one – who can communicate effectively.

Pick up any newspaper and scan the jobs wanted advertisements. You will find that communication skills are one of the essential prerequisites in most occupations. Be it engineers, business managers, sales officers, operators, etc. Any vocation you choose- oral communication skills are identified as valuable for both obtaining employment and successful job performance. Big corporations and multinational organizations need better communication skills in their employees so that they can work in teams and with people from diverse backgrounds. Remember we are living in a communications revolution; we are living in an age of increasing talk. When we have to talk, we might as well talk well, and talk wisely.

What is involved in the communication process?

The steps involved in this process are:

1. Idea: 

Information exists in the mind of the sender (who is the source). This can be a concept, idea, information, or feeling.

2. Encoding: 

The source initiates a message by encoding the idea (or thought) in words or symbols and sends it to a receiver.
The message is the actual physical product from the source encoding. When we speak, the speech is the message. When we write, the writing is the message. When we gesture, the movements of our arms and the expressions of our faces are the message.

3. The Channel: 

The channel in the communication process is the medium that the sender uses to transmit the message to the receiver. Care needs to be exercised in selecting the most effective channel for each message. Even though both an oral and a written medium may be appropriate to transmit a particular message, one medium may be more effective than the other. To illustrate, let’s assume that an individual desires an immediate reply to a question. Although the message could be in either an oral or a written form, the oral medium most likely will be more effective because of the immediacy, if required.
In selecting an appropriate channel, the sender must assess the following factors, as the situation demands:
  • need for immediate transmission of the message, (Fax instead of letter)
  • need for immediate feedback, (Phone instead of fax)
  • need for a permanent record of the message, (Written rather than oral)
  • degree of negotiation and persuasion required, (Personal meeting – face-to-face)
  • the destination of the message, and (Far-flung area – letter only)
  • the nature of the content of the message. (Has to be a contract –written)
In addition, the sender should take into consideration his/her skill in using each of the alternative channels, as well as the receiver’s skill in using each of the channels.
Communication rarely takes place over only one channel; two or three even four channels are normally used simultaneously.
For example: in face-to-face interactions, we speak and listen but we also gesture and receive these signals visually.

4. Decoding: 

It is the act of understanding messages (words or symbols). This is known as Decoding.
When the sound waves are translated into ideas, we are taking them out of the code they are in, hence decoding. Thus, listeners and readers are often regarded as Decoders.
During the transmitting of the message, two processes will be received by the receiver. 

Content and Context:
Content is the actual words or symbols of the message which is known as a language – i.e. spoken and written words combined into phrases that make grammatical and semantic (meaning) sense. We all use and interpret the meanings of words differently, so even simple messages can be misunderstood (Are you going to give me or not?). And many words have different meanings to confuse the issue even more (You are smart.).
Context is the way the message is delivered and is known as Paralanguage – tone of voice, the look in the sender’s eye’s, body language, hand gestures, state of emotion (anger, fear, uncertainty, confidence, etc.). Paralanguage causes messages to be misunderstood as we believe what we see more than what we hear; we trust the accuracy of nonverbal behaviors more than verbal behaviors.
Many managers think they have communicated once they told someone to do something, “I don’t know why was not the work done?…. I told my Secretary to do it.” As a matter of fact, the secretary misunderstood the message.
Remember: A message is never communicated unless it is understood by the receiver.
The question arises then, how do you know a message has been properly received?

5. Feedback: 

By two-way communication or feedback. This feedback will tell the sender that the receiver understood the message, its level of importance, and what must be done with it.
So the feedback loop is the final link in the communication process. Feedback is the check on how successful we have been, in transferring our messages as originally intended. It determines whether understanding has been achieved or not.
The purpose of feedback is to change and alter messages so the intention of the original communicator is understood by the second communicator. It includes verbal and nonverbal responses to another person’s message.

Levels of Communication

There are five levels of communication:
    1. Intrapersonal Communication
    2. Interpersonal Communication 
    3. Mediated Communication
    4. Person-to-Group Communication
    5. Mass Communication


Communication is used extensively in the managerial functions of planning, organizing, staffing, directing, and controlling. Virtually every task that a manager performs requires the use of communication in one form or another.
Communication | Definition, Process, Types, Importance

The nature of communication in the modern organization can be studied by examining the direction of communication flow and the destination of the communication. While communication in the modern organization flows downward, upward, and horizontal, its destination can be either internal or external.

Downward Communication

Downward communication flows from people at higher levels to those at lower levels in the organizational hierarchy. The primary function of downward communication is to inform employees about things important to them such as:
  • Information about their jobs
  • Organizational policies and procedures
  • Feedback about their performance
  • Organizational goals and objectives
The types of downwards communication may include instructions, speeches, meetings, announcements, memos, notifications, letters, handbooks, pamphlets, company newsletters and periodicals, bulletin boards (notice boards) policy statements, and procedures.
For downward communication some use written communication, others use oral communication.

Why is this needed?

When employees receive appropriate downward communication from management, they can be better motivated and become more efficient.
While the employees need clear job directions and safety rules, they also need to know facts about organizational strategy, products, and viewpoints on important controversial issues.
Employees want to know about their benefits – health care, insurance, promotions, pensions, training, work environment, retirement, etc.
In a way, the employees, through their collective pressure, force their employers to be accountable for their decisions through effective downward communication.

Upward Communication

Upward communication travels from subordinates to superiors and continues up the organizational ladder. Upward communication is extremely important, as upper management needs to know specifically about Production performance, marketing information, and financial data, what lower-level employees are thinking, and so on. The better the quality of information they receive, the more useful and effective it will be in their decision-making efforts. Unfortunately, this flow is often hindered by people in the communication link who filter the messages and do not transmit all the information, especially unfavorable news to their bosses.
Types of media used to direct information upward are 
  • reports
  • interoffice memos
  • supervisor-subordinate conferences 
  • suggestion systems 
  • grievance procedures
Upward internal communication is becoming increasingly important day by day. Today many executives sincerely seek frank comments from employees, in addition to the usual periodic reports. Successful managers listen closely to opinions, complaints, problems, and suggestions especially when they are clearly and effectively stated. As a response to increasing global competition, some companies are developing new management styles, which make input from employees an integral part of important decisions affecting the company.

Lateral Communication

It includes the horizontal flow of information, with people on the same or similar organizational levels, and diagonal flow, with people at different levels who have no direct reporting relationships. Lateral communication is used to speed up information flow, improve understanding, and coordinate efforts for the achievement of organizational objectives.
Effective lateral communication between peers is essential in organizations to 
  • solve problems
  • perform job duties
  • prepare for meetings
  • listening to and making requests
  • writing notes and memos
  • discussing and writing about projects
Most lateral communication is of an oral nature, involving a conference between the participants. In some instances, the conference is conducted by telephone.

The destination of communication is either internal or external. The ratio between internal and external communication varies from organization to organization. As the size of the organization increase, the amount of internal communication tends to increase at a faster rate than the amount of external communication.

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