An Analysis of the Concept and Process of Communication by Adler and Elmhorst

Webster's Dictionary defines a process as a continuous series of changes taking place in a definite manner (Websters, 1997, p. 530). So is communication comprised of a series of changes or events that collectively capture the true meaning of the message we want to convey. It truly is a wonder that we are able to get our message across at all sometimes, given all of the opportunities for miscommunication that abound in the course of exchange of information.

The process of communication on its face appears to be simple, but it is actually quite complicated.

Adler and Elmhorst state that the process begins with a sender [or encoder], the person who transmits a message (p. 5). The senders message is intended to elicit a response from a receiver, or the person who is supposed to receive the message. However, messages can convey information that is both deliberate and unintentional; for example, a manager may be abrupt while giving a subordinate feedback because he is late for a meeting, and consequently the managers feedback is construed as negative.

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Thus, it is incumbent upon the sender to develop a sense of awareness with regard to what is said and how it is presented. The sender has a responsibility to choose certain words or nonverbal methods to send an intentional message because the wordsa communicator chooses to deliver a message can make a tremendous difference in how that message is received (p. 6).

The person receiving the message (the decoder) attaches meaning not only to the words that the message conveys, but also to the nonverbal cues that may or may not be intentional; as a result, there is no guarantee that [the message] will be understood as the sender intended it to be (p.

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6). The decoders response, or feedback, to the sender is based on the decoders interpretation of the senders message, whether deliberate, unintentional or otherwise.

One interesting characteristic of the communication process is that communication is irreversible. We constantly define ourselves by our words and our actions, especially those actions that are unintentional. As such, we have a responsibility to develop a level of communication that is consistent and conveys a true snapshot of our character. People often forgive, but they do not forget. Our words and our actions become engraved in the minds of others, and oftentimes we are unable to erase an erroneous perception that others may have of us because we may not have taken the time to weigh the long-term effect of an ill-chosen word or action.

For example, students in this course arrived on the first day of class to find an empty classroom. We waited for 30 minutes. When it became clear that the professor was not going to show up, we decided to leave. Apparently the professor assigned to teach the class did not know he was supposed to teach the course. In my opinion, the breakdown in communication was completely unacceptable. It was also unacceptable to assign a substitute instructor at the last minute and expect that instructor to teach the course without the proper materials and preparation-time, Mostly, I was irritated because I felt shortchanged. I pay a considerable sum of money for the privilege of attending college. I feel that the least the professor could have done was leave a note on the door, or have someone leave a note on the door, notifying students that the class was cancelled.

I find it ironic that this sort of thing could occur in a Communication course. My perception is that he simply did not care, or that maybe he had better things to do. If he does not care about my education, it makes me wonder if the University cares about my education. I also wonder if this scenario will repeat itself, and what steps the Office of Continuing Education has taken, if any, to ensure that it will not happen again.

The most frequent, and the most important, type of communication is listening. Despite the importance of listening in the course of effective communication, research suggests that misunderstandings are the rule, rather than the exception (p. 103). Just as surprising, most business communicators dont see themselves as lacking in this skill (p. 103). There are numerous barriers to effective listening. One barrier is the relational message that is being sent. For example, relational messages can convey affinity-the degree to which a communicator likes the other person in general or a particular message that is being sent (p. 9); they can also convey the communicators degree of respect for the other person (p. 10).

We are more apt to listen to people that we like and respect. We are also more apt to listen to people that we agree with. Listening becomes most difficult when we face the task of communicating with people we do not agree with. For example, I participated in a group activity where each member had to express his or her opinions on a given topic. I listened to what my classmates had to say, but I also found myself formulating rebuttals in my head which, admittedly, prevented me from truly listening. I also tuned out for periods of time when members started rambling and deviated from the topic we were supposed to be discussing. One technique I found helped me to maintain my focus was to paraphrase what my colleagues were saying; paraphrasing also helped them to get back on track. By paraphrasing and actively listening I was also able to get a clearer understanding of their stance on the topic.

The facilitator made a critical observation with regard to the task of effective listening. He noted that some of the students were not listening to him because he observed them engaging in behavior that led him to conclude that they were not paying attention: for example, I was doodling in the back row. I pointed out that I always doodle while listening intently to whatever is being discussed; doodling is my way of concentrating. The facilitator noted that, because I was not giving him my full, undivided attention, his perception was that I was not truly listening. This observation made me reflect on other instances where colleagues could have perceived that I was not paying attention, or could have perceived that my doodling was a sign that I did not value what they had to say. During the remainder of the class, I caught myself on several occasions picking up my pencil or doing something else with my hands and abruptly stopped. Just as doodling is a behavior that I learned, I am confident that it is a behavior I can unlearn as well, now that I am aware of the erroneous perception it imparts.

Face-to-face settings are the most difficult because people are simultaneously senders and receivers, and as such the chances for miscommunication increase dramatically. Both the sender and receiver share the burden of reaching an understanding that is essential for effective communication, even though at times it may seem that the burden is on the sender to ensure that their message is received in its proper context. For example, one of the students in class (Barbara) made an excellent point regarding the role of the sender in taking the initiative to schedule a meeting with their manager in order to discuss issues the sender feels are important. It would be unfair of the sender in a work situation to expect the manager to know what issues are important. Therefore, the sender must set the stage by manipulating the physical context: schedule a meeting with the manager rather than broach the subject in the hallway or elevator.

Adler and Elmhorst state that physical context can influence the content and quality of interaction (p. 7). Scheduling a meeting conveys to the manager that the issues discussed during that meeting are to be taken seriously because they are important to the sender. However, just as the burden was on the sender to initiate and schedule the meeting, the manager also has a responsibility to actively listen to the sender in order to help the sender communicate more effectively. The manager must take responsibility for understanding the content and feeling of what is being said. Adult learner Guide states that by learning to identify what a sender means and how the sender feels about situations and problems, the [manager] can communicate acceptance and create a sense of trust (p. 43).

Excellent communication skills are essential for a successful, satisfying career. They are also essential for long, rewarding personal relationships. This course, although short, provided us with the basic tools for becoming better communicators. The adult learners in this group recognize that there is always potential for communicating more effectively, and that communication is indeed a process that requires work and attention, just like anything else in life that is worth the effort.

Updated: Mar 16, 2023
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An Analysis of the Concept and Process of Communication by Adler and Elmhorst. (2023, Mar 16). Retrieved from

An Analysis of the Concept and Process of Communication by Adler and Elmhorst essay
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