Communication Skills KNEC Notes
Topic 1: Introduction to Communication
Definition of terms and concepts used in communication
“Communicationis the process of sharing meaning through continuous flow of symbolic messages.” Communication is therefore generally defined as the process of understanding and sharing meaning. Communication is a complicated process. It is variable, active and dynamic. It starts long before the words begin to flow and can last long after the words stop. Communication is a process that requires understanding – perceiving, interpreting, and comprehending the meaning of the verbal and nonverbal behaviour of others. Understanding the meaning of another person’s message does not occur unless the two communicators can elicit common meanings for words, phrases and non-verbal codes.
Communicators – Participants in the communication process
Sender is the person delivering the message
The receiver is the person receiving the message – the intended target of the message
The source is the origin of the message – the component that initiates the message
Roles can shift between the sender and receiver regularly.
The Message: The message is the verbal and non-verbal form of the idea, thought, or feeling that one person (source) wishes to communicate to another person or group of persons (the receiver/s). It is the content of the interaction.
Code: the system used to formulate the message, e.g. written or oral language.
Channels (verbal or non-verbal) – the specific mechanism, method, mode, pipeline used to transmit the message.
Medium: the form technology used to transmit the message e.g. face-to-face, television, web, phone, etc.).
Noise: internal, external, and semantic interference of the message. Internal interference includes mental and psychological factors; external include physical interference e.g. loud sound; and mental includes misunderstanding or misinterpretation of information.
Environment: the context of the message – aspects surrounding the message and providing the basis for its meaning and understanding, e.g. environment, time period, relationships among communicators, cultural aspects, & behaviors of communicators.
Feedback: The response of the receiver or audience to the initial message, checks the effectiveness of the initial information. It includes positive and negative feedback.
Purpose of communication
The purpose of communication is to inform, persuade, express feelings, increase imagination, influence people, and achieve expectations or objectives.
a) Communication can be used to pass information in the workplace – e.g. a supervisor informing employees about a change in work schedule or role assignments.
b) It can also be used to express feelings and build relationships, e.g. a manager trying to resolve conflicts between employees will call for a meeting and use communication to reconcile the warring parties.
c) Communication is also used to persuade or promote negotiation in a business scenario, e.g. when you want to persuade a customer to buy a product
d) Communication helps in influencing people and building goodwill. So communicators can influence each other in an open exchange of ideas. E.g. a manager trying to influence employees’ actions positively in the workplace, will use language to influence them.
e) Managers will also need to communicate the goals and objectives of the business and pass important information to them.
Essentials of effective communication
Effective communication occurs when information is transmitted between individuals and organizations with the purpose of informing, persuading, and building goodwill.
An effective communication should be clear, complete, correct, save time, and achieve the intended purpose. Here are some of the essential elements of effective communication:
1) Should have clarity of purpose
2) Be well informed
3) Analyze the audience
4) Avoid jargons
5) Communicate confidently
6) Be consistent
7) Should be simple
8) Should be straightforward
9) Address your target
20) Good listening
The 7 C’s of Effective Communication
Clear/clarity: getting the message across that the receiver can understand what you are saying
Concise/conciseness: must be brief – pass the intended message in the fewest words possible
Concreteness: communicate concretely – being specific, definite, and vivid; not being too general and vague. E.g. saying Kenya is growing economically is not concrete. More concrete statement is: “Kenya has grown by 10% in the past 2 years.”
Correct: The message should be correct – right language, accurate facts and figures, and right choice of words.
Considerate: should be considerate, not hurting others’ feelings. Good attitude and empathy is required for effective communication.
Complete: Complete and adequate is important; incomplete message keeps the audience guessing and leads to misunderstanding and delays.
Courteous: being sincere, thoughtful, and appreciative; avoid irritating messages and signs.
Role of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in Communication
Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) refers to technologies that provide access to information through telecommunications. It includes to all communication technologies, including the internet, wireless networks, cell phones, computers, software, middleware, video-conferencing, social networking, and other media applications and services enabling users to access, retrieve, store, transmit, and manipulate information in a digital form.
ICT makes a business more efficient, effective and promptly respond to customers’ needs. ICT can assist business activities including design, manufacturing, R&D, distribution and sales and feedback. Prof.Nassef reports that “contrary to the prevalent predict that ICT will decrease the demand for face to face communication and will result in greater dispersion of economic activity. She suggests that ICT promotes industrial agglomeration”. In addition, Prof.Nassef argues that “The search of job and recruitment via the Internet offer potential efficiency gains to the labor market and the economy through reducing transaction cost and providing better matching between workers and vacancies by diffusing information about job widely”.
1) Improved efficiency
2) Convenient, fast, and easy business communications
3) Cuts across geographical boundaries – reduces costs of travelling
4) Prompt response to customer needs
5) Improved research and development
6) Increased sales through online marketing
Topic 2: Communication Process
Channels of Communication
Choosing and using the right channels of communication is necessary for healthy relationships and successful business negotiations.
Communication channels are the modes or means by which people exchange information and interact with one another in their social settings – at home, school, or work. The communication channels you use to pass your message will determine the effectiveness of the communication process. Learning communication channels is an essential part of developing effective communication skills to be used in the workplace.
The key channels of communication include verbal, non-verbal, and written communications.
1) Oral/Verbal Channels of Communication
Verbal or oral communication refers to the process of speaking and listening through the word of mouth. The source of the message codes the information and speaks to the recipient through word of mouth. The key types of verbal communication channels are: face-to-face communication, telephone communication, and broadcast media communication channels.
a) Face-to-face communication
Face-to-face communication channel refers to personal interactions between two or more people. This is the most commonly used mode of communication among individuals within their environments, including workplace, school and home. Face-to-face channel communication is suitable when the information to be passed is complex or emotionally charged.
Advantages of face-to-face communication
- It is used to clarify information and avoid ambiguity
- It allows strong emotional and personal connection between speakers, leading to stronger and better relationships
- Effective in problem solving and decision making involving teams or groups.
- Face-to-face communication also enhances interaction between the source and the recipient(s) of the message.
- It is easier to convince people in a face-to-face communication, and it is necessary for negotiation when one wants to gain full attention and persuade someone.
- Promotes the use of non-verbal methods of communication such as gestures and body language to make communication more meaningful and enable speakers express their feelings better.
- Face-to-face communication is a quicker method of communication because someone gets instant feedback without the limitation of time and space.
Disadvantages of face-to-face communication
- Face-to-face communication is not possible with long distance communications
- Geographical barriers can hinder face-to-face communications
- It is difficult to pass a message to many people at the same time through face-to-face communication
- It is affected by logistical constraints, especially when the participants are geographically scattered.
- Impulse response – may not give people time to think and provide a well thought out response
b) Broadcast Media Channels of Communication
Broadcast media communication involves the use of mass media platforms such as radio, TV and loudspeakers to pass information to a large audience. A company that wishes to announce an annual meeting to its stakeholders or the launch of a new product may use radio or television. For example, the president may provide a media briefing or public address in multiple TV and radio stations.
c) Mobile/Telephone Communications
Another oral channel of communication is telephone or mobile channels, which is used when delivering a complex or private message to an individual or a small group.
Advantage of using mobile/Telephone Communications
- It is appropriate for private and complex messages
- It enhances interactive exchange
- The recipient is able to interpret the message by reading the tone of the speaker
- Telephone conversations may save time as people take time to meet for face-to-face communication.
Disadvantages of mobile communications
- Anonymity may lead to fraud and fake identity
- Lacks personal and emotional connection like in face-to-face communication
- It may not be possible to read the moods and body language of the other speaker
2) Written Communication Channels
Written channels of communication include electronic and paper forms of communication, where messages are written. Examples of written communications are: text messages, memos, letters, emails, documents, reports, spreadsheets, and newsletters
Advantages of Written Communication Channels
- Written communications are lean
- Effective in transmitting large and complex information such as financial reports of big companies like Safaricom. Human beings cannot process a large piece of information at one go, so they can keep it in a written form to be read bit by bit.
- Written messages can provide deep information and big data for proper analysis and understanding.
- Written information can be carefully planned and crafted to pass accurate information as intended by the sender.
- They promote formality and authority of the message.
- Written message can be stored for a long time and used later as evidence.
Disadvantages of Written Communication Channels
- Written messages can be ambiguous. The writer should provide sufficient context for the words to be interpreted easily.
- Written messages can be too much to read, and some emails might be overlooked.
- They lack personal and emotional connection and interactions
- They lack non-verbal cues and body movements that are necessary to reinforce the message.
3) Electronic Communications
Electronic communication channels are those that allow people to communicate through electronic media such as computers and mobile phones. They include interactive blogs, social media, public and intranet websites, and television broadcasts.
Advantages of Electronic Communications
- People can communicate across geographical locations
- Electronic devices nowadays allow people to talk face-to-face from far distances, e.g. WhatsApp, Skype, and Zoom.
- This makes communications more interactive, personal, and effective.
- People can also communicate in real time across various geographical locations using electronic device; hence it is possible to receive instant feedback.
- Electronic channels make communications more convenient and less costly. It would be expensive to arrange for meetings and travel long distances to attend such meetings.
Disadvantages of Electronic Media
- Participants may be exposed to cyber bullying
- Can be risky because it electronic devices may be subjected to hacking and data theft.
- Technical difficulties may delay communications and threaten the security of users
4) Non-verbal Communication Channels
Non-verbal channels of communication are forms of communication that does not involve the use of verbal words, whether written or spoken. They include gestures, facial expressions, body movements, eye contact, and postures. Research shows that 93% of communications across the world are done non-verbally.
- Facial Expressions: this involves passing messages by expressing them using the face. Studies show that faces make over 10,000 expressions. Every feeling has its own type of facial expression – sadness, sorrow, happiness, shock, and anxiety. Some of the expressions including frowning, smiling, blinking, blushing, etc. The best facial expression to promote good communication is smile. A smile can lighten up a bad day. It warms up, welcomes, and establishes a person before others.
- Body Movements: body movements include kinesics or common practices that involve the movement of various parts of the body. They include shrugging shoulders, raising hands, shaking leg, tremors, nodding, etc.
- Posture: how a person is posturing can leave a strong impression on their audience. People can perceive your intentions or personality according to how you sit or stand. For instance, if you hold your head up high and keep your back straight, then you show confidence. However, if you lie low and face down, then you show lack of confidence, uncertainty, or weakness.
- Eye Contact: maintaining eye contact is one of the best ways to sustain communication. Your eyes will show your intention, interest, attention and readiness for conversation. If you keep checking your phone or looking away when someone else is speaking, then you may communicate the message that you are not interested in the conversation.
Advantages of Non-Verbal Communications
- Non-verbal communication channels complement verbal messages by adding some meaning to them.
- Easy presentation – speakers can present information easier through non-verbal than verbal communication.
- Nonverbal communication can be used to substitute verbal communication when the verbal words are blocked or interrupted by noise, geographical barriers, and language barriers.
- Important when used to repeat or reinforce verbal messages.
- They are used to illustrate the message
- Appropriate for deaf persons
- Useful for people who cannot read or write or can’t understand the language used
Disadvantages of Non-verbal Communication
- Vague, incomplete, and imprecise: if the receiver does not understand your expression, the meaning of the message may not be understood.
- Does not have a formal structure, so it cannot be used for official purposes
- Cultural differences can bring different meanings for various gestures and facial expressions. Each culture has unique meanings attached to their nonverbal cues.
- Not possible to hold long conversations and pass complex messages using non-verbal communications.
- It can be difficult to understand because it requires cultural understanding and keen attention.
Stages of Communication Process
The communication process facilitates the sharing of meaning between the sender and receiver of the message. It is through the communication process that an effective communication and understanding of meaning takes place. Effective communication occurs when communicators keep their messages concise, clear and accurate through all stages of the communication process. Thus, it is ultimately necessary for anyone aspiring to become a good communicator to learn the key elements of each stage of the communication process.
A complete communication process undergoes eight key stages as detailed below:
- Source (Sender)
The communication process begins with the source if the message, who is the sender in the communication process. A sender creates a message which consists of information and ideas that he or she wishes to disseminate. Effectiveness of the communication process is largely influenced by the sender’s choice of words and channel of communication. The sender should make the message clear so that it becomes easy to understand and to achieve its purpose.
The message is a stage in the communication process – the second stage that comes to the sender, and goes to the next stage as a raw material. It is necessary to ensure that the message is accurate and useful in order to go into the next stage without a hitch or distortion.
This stage is the third step where the message is encoded by the sender. Encoding entails transforming the message from an idea in the mind of the sender into symbolic forms such as pictures, words, gestures, or any other valuable means. It is a process of putting the message into a format that can be sent, and that is easily understandable by the receiver. The message should be encoded clearly and in a simple way for it to be understood clearly. For example, the sender should use a language that the receiver can understand.
The stage of transmission involves the use of appropriate channel or medium of communication to send the message. The channels of communication may be written, verbal, or use of gestures. Verbal channels include face-to-face, telephone and videoconferencing. On the other hand, written channels of communication include emails, reports, letters, and social media posts. The choice of medium or channel determines the effectiveness of the message transmission. The channel chosen should be appropriate so that the message reaches the right receiver(s) in the right form.
- Decoding and Understanding
The fifth stage is the process in which the receiver interprets the message in order to understanding the meaning. It is not always the case that the receiver understands the meaning the way it was intended by the sender. This could be due to the wrong choice of communication channel or inappropriate encoding and decoding. It is also possible that the receiver may lack sufficient background knowledge to understand the message, or he might not understand the specific jargon or technical language that you are using.
- Receiver and Reception
In the sixth stage, the receiver tries to make sense of the message. The receiver is the person for whom the message is directed to. In any communication, the sender intends to make the receiver take a specific action or respond to the message in a certain way. However, the receiver may interpret the message subjectively. The receiver often bring in their ideas and beliefs which may affect how they understand the message and respond to it. Misunderstanding between sender and receiver occurs when the receiver interprets the message in a different way as intended by the sender. Therefore, the sender should put the ideas and feelings of the receiver into consideration before sending the message.
The seventh stage of the communication process is the response from the receiver. After decoding and understanding the message, the receiver provides feedback. The importance of this stage of the communication process is that it shows whether the message was encoded and decoded accurately, and that the receiver has understood its meaning. Without feedback, the communication process is not complete. The message has to be received and acted on for it to be considered a complete process.
The final stage of the communication process is interference or context that may affect the dissemination of information. Context may include political, economic, social or cultural. Effective communication occurs when the communicators choose the right context and environment without nose or any other communication barrier.