Better Communication

The Communication Model (above) explains how the sender changes their thoughts and feelings into sounds and actions. Then the model shows how the receiver decodes these sounds and actions into their thoughts and feelings.

Verderber & Verderber (1988) state this process has seven parts.

(1) Context – Critical for ensuring the message is understood in the way it was intended.

There is a Psychological Context – How the person feels when they get the message.

There is a Historical Context – What has previously happened between the encoder and decoder?

There is a Physical Context – Whereabouts the message is sent and received.

(2)  Participants – The people involved in the communication process bring their own experiences, attitudes and values.

(3) Rules – Set boundaries on how we communicate and define the words we use and when we should speak. These rules are often unstated.

(4) Messages – Meaning or context of the communication.

(5) Channels – The five senses, touch, taste, sound, smell, & sight, may all be channels used to communicate a message. When having a conversation, we commonly use only 2 channels; sound and sight. We use these channels by talking and using body language.

(6) Noise – This gets in the way of communicating and comes in 3 forms: external, internal, and semantic. External are things such as a loud noise preventing the receiver from hearing all of the messages. Internal can be things such as what is going on in the receiver’s head, thoughts such as daydreaming and bias. Semantic relates to language problems such as using sentences with a lot of jargon.

(7) Feedback – This tells the sender what we as the receiver have heard.

How Does the Communication Model Help Us?

Think of the communication model as similar to how a car engine works. You can drive fine without knowing how the engine works. However, when that engine breaks down, the driving stops until someone fixes the engine. The communication model helps identify where the problems of communication lie. Identifying our areas of weakness in the communication model can help us strengthen our skills.

It can be difficult to identify our part in a communication breakdown. The unfairness of a situation can create feelings of frustration, affecting how we communicate. “Just take a breath and calm down”, the person we are communicating with may helpfully offer. About as helpful as pouring gasoline on a fire because they are not listening and understanding how they are the cause of this frustration.

In the above case, the breakdown is at the feedback part of the communication model. The feedback the person requires is an empathic response.

Counsellors are well trained in these types of responses.

Empathic responses:

1. Appreciative

“Thank you for talking to me about this…”

“I am grateful that you shared this with me…”

2. Supportive

“What can I do to help you with this?”

“It sounds like it has taken a lot of strength to get this far”

3. Reflective

Reflection can help people feel they are heard and understood.

Common reflective statements can look like this: “You are feeling X in situation Y”

In conversation, it may be delivered like this: “You are feeling frustrated about the lack of progress”.

4. Validate

“That must have been difficult.”

“I’m sorry you had to go through that.”