What Is Communication? The Big Picture

Many people ask the question “What is communication?” That’s a big question. I’m sure most of you have an idea and could describe your own interpretation one way or another. But the best description I’ve deduced from my readings and writings on the subject is as follows:Communication is the act of transmitting or exchanging information, signals and messages through verbal and nonverbal activities. It is a system of sending and receiving between humans by way of speech, writing or technology within our personal and industrial lives.What is communication? You simply cannot stop at one paragraph. It transcends psychology and physiology, neurology, electronics as they apply to communications throughout humans, communities, nations and continents.Communication as a system of sending and receiving encompasses telephone, telegraph, radio, TV, transportation and shipping. There is technical communication, business communication, on-line communication, communication within productivity which can all be described individually as a ‘what is communication’ question.What is communication? Our whole world is a great big ball of communication — technical and individual — from the micro elements in the earth to the macro in space.Individually, communication is a never-ending system of transmitting or exchanging information, signals and messages, through verbal and nonverbal activities that begins at birth and ends at death — even before and beyond.But in its bare form, as it affects human communication, it is a system for sending and receiving that always requires a Sender and a Receiver. It is pretty hard to communicate with yourself. Although there is a lot of that going on through self-talk and thinking.One can also communicate with animals. But people need people to communicate at the human level. And, there, it takes place on a two-way street platform used by a sender and a receiver exchanging communication specific codes.Have you ever wondered how your body communicates within itself? How does it go from receiving a command or a stimulus, to carrying out the reactive physical or emotional response?Let’s draw a mental picture through a quick peek into psychology.To put it simply, messengers (neurons) inside the body receive a command (a stimulus — like hitting your big toe on the baseboard for example), pass it on to other neurons along the nervous system, which pass it on to yet other neurons that ultimately make the connection to the muscles to be contracted and which produces the ultimate response (retraction of the foot from the painful sensation).The essence of the above process is that different types of messengers (neurons) are involved, each one carrying a specific substance (neurotransmitters) in order to connect from the original stimuli to the ultimate reactions.In communication, the messengers are the activities of the communication process; the stimulus comes from the sender of the communication and the response comes from the receiver.The important factor as all of this takes place is the “connecting power” between the messengers or the activities taking place between the two people.It’s like the coupling between two different gears in mechanical processes; it’s like the keyboard between the human fingers and the computer screen; it’s like the software driver between the screen and the printer… or the receiver and transmitter on an electronic circuit board…If the coupling isn’t right, the gears will not work together. If the keyboard doesn’t work properly, the screen will show garbled scripts or nothing at all, etc.Funny thing is that the neurons within our nervous and neurological systems know what to do — the unconscious process comes as standard equipment. But in our conscious verbal and nonverbal communication, we need to learn the “codes” which are the equivalent to the “neurons” inside our bodies.How do we do that? By learning the process of communication which comprises the activities taking place, such as, the information (subject, instruction, opinion, etc.) being communicated by the sender and interpreted by the receiver; the means (verbal, nonverbal, in writing, by telephone, etc.) by which the information is being communicated and received; the way (tone of voice, kindly, hostile, etc.) in which the information is being sent and received.What is communication? It simply cannot be wholly described or explained in a paragraph or article, it needs a book! In a one-liner crunch, communication can be boiled down to “a system for sending and receiving messages”. But within that one line, communication is huge and complex and endless — as big as our world is. /dmh.

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