In my experience on the topic of formal or informal communication I have observed that
1) Most communication breakdowns happen because of misunderstandings
2) And misunderstandings happen when communication is out of context
Communication is always “contextual” whether it is formal or informal, verbal or nonverbal. Being aware of the contextual part of communication is the responsibility of everyone to think before sending or receiving. It means to always bring into the picture the recognition of the immediate surrounding of a given issue or matter being communicated.
When faced with a communication breakdown, the question for us to always ask is this: “What is the context within which this communication situation is taking place?”
As in a book where the text is the actual group of words being read, the context is the surrounding information, the details, the story, the places, the characters, etc.
So, where is the conversation within the context of the issue? Is the problem happening at the sender’s end of the communication or at the receiver’s end? Where is the misunderstanding? Then focus your communication recovery there.
Communication is never independent of context whether it is formal or informal.
The Three Levels of Verbal Communication.
Before we can improve verbal communication and increase its effectiveness, we need to understand how it works and where the players fit within that communication.
First, when we communicate, there is always a sender (speaker) and a receiver (listener).
Second, the communication itself contains 3 elements:
A) the Information being communicated such as issue, topic, subject, instruction, opinion etc.
B) the Means by which this information is being communicated (verbal, nonverbal, written, using telephone, face to face, letter, book, etc.)
C) the Way in which the information is being communicated (how we use our words, tone of voice, writing style, organized or disorganized manner, etc.)
Both sides have three levels of Active Responsibility to process the activities used in communication:
This is where the actual exchange of communication takes place between the sender and receiver which contains the above three elements.
This is where the Translating and Interpreting of that communication happens. This is done by the thought processes of each the Sender and the Receiver according to each his/her experiences, and frame
of references in their various walks of life (business, personal, moral, ethical, etc.).
This is where the major complications of communication arise (good or bad connection). If everyone thought the same, saw things the same way or reacted in the same manner, communication would be
straightforward. However, it doesn’t happen that way.
This is where we get and give Feedback, Understanding and Awareness:.
Both sides are responsible to see that the communication has been Sent and Received as intended. This is identified by asking the right questions at the right times. “Can you please repeat the steps for closing the shop, to make sure I didn’t leave anything out?” “Let me run through the requirements as I understand you’ve outlined them”. Both sides ask for feedback when needed.
Effective communication requires a common Understanding between the parties communicating. The Sender Transmits with Understanding to the Receiver. The Receiver Interprets with Understanding from the Sender.
Finally, each side requires an Awareness of the many interferences also going on, such as cultural differences, linguistics, diction, clarity of speech and expression, verbal, nonverbal parts, etc.
Whether we are in Formal or Informal Communication, we are all subject and vulnerable to break downs. Understanding this and the 3 Levels of Verbal Communication that we can watch for will help us improve and perfect as much as we can our own communication as well as help other to communicate better. /dmh
Diane M. Hoffmann is the founder of Hoffmann-Rondeau Communications and the web site http://communicationverbalnonverbal.blogspot.com/ which is the home of free articles and tips, her e-books “Improve Communication, Verbal and Nonverbal” and “Improve Communication, Organization and Training” as well as her 296-page printed book “Contextual Communication, Organization and Training”. Article copyright(c)2009/10/11 Diane M. Hoffmann. You may reprint this article making sure to include this bio with no changes.
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