CDM/OB/MDP/COM COMMUNICATION : NATURE AND PROCESS “Communication is the currency of Leadership”Introduction1. If there is one field of human activity, which has been subject to mostextensive research and study, and yet has eluded the much sought afterinsightful understanding, it is communication. It is the very basic phenomenonupon which rests the entire fabric of the society and all the human interactionswithin it. Whether inside formal organisation or without, people always interact inorder to reach purposive ends and the enabling instrument in this iscommunication. It is pervasive in all human endeavours and activities.2. In organisations, it is only through communication that all the importantfunctions of information handling, instructing, directing, integrating and monitoringare carried out. In person-to-person relationships, mutual trust, understandingand co-operation can be achieved only with the help of meaningfulcommunication. Interpersonal conflicts and misunderstandings arise where thereis a lack of communication. Thus it can be seen how important communication isin organisations as well as in social situations.3. In the defence services, most of the tasks are characterised by speed andaccuracy. At times even a slight deviation from the predetermined plan couldspell disaster. From this can be deduced the magnitude of information handlingthat would be required in the Services and the need for emphasis oncommunication.4. If the study of communication were enlarged to provide a deeper andinsightful knowledge, it would include the entire gamut of psychological sub-disciplines like perception, cognition, linguistics, motivation etc. It would alsoextend into organisational areas such as structure, hierarchy, authority andmanagement functions. Of necessity, the present study will have to be limited inscope. The objective of the chapters on communication series is to create anunderstanding of the process of communication and how it is related to thestructure of organisation and to enable one to relate this knowledge to one’seffective task performance.What is Communication?5. Communication has been defined in numerous ways. The one chosen forthe purpose of the present study is: “Communication is a mutual exchange offacts, thoughts and perception, resulting in common understanding of all parties.This does not imply agreement.” An examination of this definition reveals thefollowing ingredients as being important in communication: - (a) Communication is purpose oriented. (b) It is a two-way process.
2 CDM/OB/MDP/COM (c) Psychosocial aspects like thoughts, feelings, emotions and values are involved in communication.6. Communication in defence services does not mean mere exchange ofmessages. It embraces a great deal more. The values, prejudices, feelings andpersonality factors of all the participants concerned come into play. Usedappropriately, communication can be the most effective instrument for growthand development of our Service and its personnel. Its absence or inappropriateuse can create conflicts and problems.7. Peter Drucker identifies four fundamentals of communication, which showthe nature of the process. These are briefly stated below: - (a) Communication is Perception. This implies that it is only the recipient who communicates, because if he does not perceive what is transmitted; no communication takes place. The effectiveness of communication is limited to the recipient’s range of perception. (b) Communication is Expectation. People perceive only what they expect to. The unexpected is ignored or misunderstood. (c) Communication Makes Demands. Experiments have shown that words with unpleasant emotional charges or threats tend to be suppressed while those with pleasant associations are retained longer. In other words, communication makes a demand on the recipient in terms of his emotional preference or rejection. It also demands him to become somebody or do something. (d) Communication and Information are Different. Information is logic, formal and impersonal, while communication is perception. The less tied up information is with human factors, the more valid and reliable it becomes. However, both these are interdependent.Types of Communication8. Bass (1990) defined communication effectiveness as the degree to whichsomeone tells others something and ensures they understand what was said. Inan even more general sense, effective communication involves the ability totransmit and receive information with a high probability that the intendedmessage is passed from sender to receiver. Few skills are more vital toleadership. Studies show that good leaders communicate feelings and ideas,actively solicit new ideas from others, and effectively articulate arguments,advocate positions and persuade others.9. Communication is best understood as a process beginning with anintention to exchange certain information with others. That intention eventuallytakes form in some particular expression, which may or not adequately conveywhat was intended. The next stage is reception. Just as with a weak or garbledradio signal or malfunctioning antenna, what is received is not always what wassent. Reception is followed by interpretation. If a driver asks, “Do I turn here?”and a passenger answer “Right”, did the passenger mean yes or turn right?Finally, it is not enough merely to receive and interpret information; others’
3 CDM/OB/MDP/COMinterpretations may or may not be consistent with what was intended at theoutset. Therefore, it always helps to have a feedback loop to assess the overalleffectiveness of any communication.10. As said earlier, communication occurs in all social situations. It can alsotake place within a person. Communication is generally categorised into threetypes – intrapersonal, interpersonal and organisational communication.Intrapersonal Communication11. Human beings are given to self-reflection and introspection. It is a kind ofcommunication one holds with one’s self. The psychologist CG Jung observed,“Self is a product of intrapersonal communication or the behaviour that resultsfrom the dialogue between conscious experience and unconscious values.” Therange and depth of a person’s experience of the physical and abstract worldaround him, his self-awareness and concept of ‘self’ are determined by thequality of intrapersonal communication. Further, it is the ability to become awareof ones self that helps one understand others. Thus, intrapersonalcommunication indirectly influences interpersonal communication.12. Before understanding interpersonal communication, it is necessary toknow about intrapersonal communication. This can be done by understandingthe conscious and subconscious mind. A few important aspects of our consciousand subconscious mind are highlighted below.13. The Conscious and Subconscious Minds. When the mind thinkscorrectly, when one understands the truth, when the thoughts deposited in one’ssubconscious mind are constructive, harmonious and peaceful the magic workingpower of the subconscious mind will respond and bring about harmoniousconditions, agreeable surroundings and the best of everything. Looking around,one notices that the vast majority of mankind lives in the world without; the moreenlightened men are intensely interested in the world within, namely one’sthought, feelings and imagery that makes one’s world without. It is therefore theonly creative power, and everything that one finds in one’s world of expression;has been created by the person in the inner world of his mind consciously orunconsciously. Most of the great scientists, artists, poets, singers and inventorshave a deep understanding of the working of the conscious and subconsciousminds. A person is like a captain navigating a ship. He must give the orders,and likewise a person must give the right orders (thoughts and images) to hissubconscious mind which controls and govern all experiences. (a) The conscious and subconscious minds are NOT two minds. They are merely two spheres of activities within one mind. (b) The conscious mind is the reasoning mind. It is that phase of mind, which chooses. For example, you choose your books, your home and your partner in life. One makes all decisions with the conscious mind. On the other hand, without any conscious choice on one’s part, his heart is kept functioning automatically and the process of digestion; circulation and
4 CDM/OB/MDP/COM breathing are carried on by the subconscious mind through processes independent of one’s conscious control. (c) The subconscious mind accepts what is impressed upon it or what one consciously believes. It does not reason things out like the conscious mind and it does not argue with you controversially. The subconscious mind is like the soil, which accepts any kind of seed, good or bad. Your thoughts are active and might be likened unto seeds. Negative destructive thoughts continue to work negatively in the subconscious mind and in due time will come forth into outer experience which corresponds with them. (d) The Tremendous Power of Suggestion. Conscious mind is “the watchman at the gate,”. The subconscious mind is amenable to suggestion. It does not make comparisons or contrasts, neither does it reason and think things out for itself. This latter function belongs to the conscious mind. (e) The dictionary says that a suggestion is the act or instance of putting something into one’s mind, the mental process by which the thought or idea suggested is entertained, accepted or put into effect. A suggestion cannot impose something on the subconscious mind against the will of the conscious mind. In other words, the conscious mind has the power to reject the suggestion given. For example, if you go to a sailor on the ship and say to him sympathetically. “My dear fellow, you are looking very ill. Are not you feeling sick? You look to me as if you were going to be seasick”. According to his temperament, he either laughs at your ‘joke’ or expresses a mild irritation. The suggestion of seasickness was associated in his mind with his own immunity from it. Therefore, it called up not fear or worry, but self- confidence. A suggestion has no power in and of itself, except if it is accepted mentally by you. Therefore, one must make certain to give suggestions to subconscious, which heal, bless, elevate and inspire you. Remember that your subconscious mind cannot take a joke. It takes you at your word. Concisely, whatever your conscious mind assumes and believes to be true, your subconscious mind will accept to pass.Interpersonal Communication14. Interpersonal communication is that, which takes place between twopersons. It is characterised by active interaction. The quality of encounter and therelationship, that occurs between two people through such transactiondetermines extent to which growth and development are enabled, mutual trust,understanding and consideration grow out of positive transaction.Organisational Communication15. Everyone is familiar with this type of communication. It is a work-a-dayexperience. It encompasses generation or collection of data, collation anddissemination of information, decision making, implementation and managementof conflict.
5 CDM/OB/MDP/COMMeans of Communication16. There are many means one can choose from to initiate and continuecommunication. It could be verbal, non-verbal, vocal or non-vocal. The followingmatrix shows the various combinations and the resultant channels one can usefor communicating. Vocal Non vocal Verbal Spoken Word Written Word Non verbal Scream, Grunt, Gesture, Spatial Relationship Inflection Facial Expression17. The effectiveness of communication depends on, among other factors, thechoice of means appropriate to the situation. Many experiments have beenconducted to identify the right channel for each situation and some of thesefindings and recommendations will be discussed later.Elements of Communication18. One of the simplified models of communication is shown in Fig 6.1, toillustrate the elements in the process of communication:-19. Source In an organisation situation, the source is normally a person with NOISE SOURCE ENCODING DECODING RECEIVER FEEDBACK Fig 6.1 : Elements in the Process of Communicationideas, intentions, information, and a purpose for communicating. One of theprime responsibilities of the source is to ensure that the communication initiatedis within the field of perception of the receiver.
6 CDM/OB/MDP/COM20. Encoding. One of the prerequisites of communication is to establish acommon base of understanding between sender and receiver. Encoding is aprocess, which partially achieves this. It translates the conceptions of the sourceinto symbols and forms.21. Message. It is the “hardware” or the physical product of the source-encoder. The shape and form that a message assumes are determined by thechannel that would be used and the speed intended.22. Channel. Channel of communication is the mode that is used forconveying the message from the source to the receiver. A message could beverbal, written, face-to-face, telephonic, mass-media etc. The appropriateness ofchannel selection contributes to effectiveness of communication.23. Decoder - Receiver. As pointed out earlier, real communication takesplace only when the recipient takes cognisance of what is emitted. The mostimportant of the elements in the process is decoding the incoming message, interms of the receiver’s past experience, expectations etc. Most problems incommunication situations occur when there is incongruence between source -encoder and decoder-receiver. In Services, this is one of the key areas forCommanders’ attention for improving communication.24. Feedback. The source or sender ought to know the impact of hismessage on the recipient. Firstly, he has to be assured that it has been receivedfull as intended. Secondly, we should know that the message is understood andits contents have had the desired influence. This element, therefore, has to be in-built in the system of communication. Surprisingly, feedback system is not socommon in defence services, which are with a rigid hierarchy and insular innature.25. Noise. The process of communication is susceptible to distortion,breakdown, or interference along any of the elements. There are numerousorganisational and human causes, which contribute to noise in communicationsituations. This is one of the subjects for discussion in the succeeding paper.However, suffice it to know at this stage that this element is a problem source,and awareness of its existence and the skill to mitigate its influence are essentialto effective leadership.Determinants of Meaning26. Verbal communication depends on language for transactions. However,even a shared language cannot fully establish the common basis for mutualunderstanding between participants in a transaction. This is because there aremultiple determinants of meaning.27. Semantics. Words are symbols, and they represent objects andabstraction because of their being continually associated with them in a particularculture. Meanings are, therefore, culturally determined. Over the years, thevocabulary increases and the meanings of some words change. Certain wordsmean many different things and carry different connotations. It is, therefore,
7 CDM/OB/MDP/COMpossible that a word is differently interpreted by different people, engaged in thesame communication system.28. Frame of Reference. Each one perceives events and environmentalstimuli in terms of his personal frame of reference, which is constituted of hisbackground, attitudes, early experience and knowledge. Frame of referenceplays an important part in the encoding and decoding processes.29. Emotions. The encoding and decoding are also considerably influenced,by the emotions of the sender and receiver respectively. The meanings peopleattach to words depend on them. They are also part of the thinking process, and,therefore, their influence on meaning will always be there in some degree orother.30. Situational Context. Words, phrases and sentences are to beperceived in the total context of a communication, if the intended idea ormeanings are to be conveyed. The meanings of words and sentences arecontingent upon the preceding and following parts of the text of communication.Any part taken out of its content and received in isolation would convey a verydifferent meaning from the original.Communication Networks31. There are different patterns or networks of communication, each of whichhas its own characteristics. The structure of the network influences speed andaccuracy of message handling, and performance and motivation of theparticipants. Some of the most common structures are shown in Fig 6.2 A A A B A B B C E C C B D D D C E E E D C IR C L E C H A IN “Y ” WHEEL Fig 6.2 : Communication Networks32. Around 1950, Leavitt and his group carried out experiments to evaluatethe effectiveness of the different networks. For each position in every network,indices of centrality and peripherality were worked out by them. Networkfunctioning and participants’ behaviour were then related to these indices to
8 CDM/OB/MDP/COMarrive at a conceptual framework. Some of the findings of researchers are givenbelow: - (a) Patterning. (i) The “Wheel” was consistent in its operation - peripheral positions sending information to the central point (C), which worked out answers and decisions. (ii) “Y” operated so as to give the Central position (C) complete decision making authority. Organisation in this took longer than wheel to evolve, but remained stable after evolving. (iii) In the “Chain,” information was sent from both ends to the central position (C) Organisation took longer than other two to stabilise. (iv) The “Circle” had no consistent operational organisation. (b) Message handling was faster in wheel than Circle. (c) Circle used more messages than others to solve problems. (d) Though more decision errors occurred in Circle than in any other, a greater proportion of them was corrected than in others. (e) Leaders emerged invariably in Wheel and ‘Y’ but less frequently in Chain and Circle. In the Wheel, position “C” was always considered the leader. (f) Only in the “wheel” people were able to recognise the organisation. (g) Enjoyment of participants of their jobs was in the order of - Circle, Chain, ‘Y, ‘Wheel;’ Circle being the most enjoyable. (h) Circle members sent more information, messages and replies than members of any other pattern. (j) The persons holding the central position had greater probability of becoming leaders and also deriving job satisfaction. (k) The Circle displayed remarkable ability to adapt to sudden changes and confused situations which others, particularly the Wheel, did not posses.33. To summarise, the study revealed that the network affected the behaviourof participants in a communication situation. The aspects of behaviour observedwere accuracy, total activity, member satisfaction, emergence of leader andorganisation. The position a person occupied in a pattern was found to influencesatisfaction and leadership emergence.Organisational Communication34. The patterns of communication network resemble certain organisationstructures. For instance, the Wheel can represent a hierarchical system, four
9 CDM/OB/MDP/COMdepartments reporting to one common superior; the Chain represents chain ofcommand. Organisations are complex networks, involved in information handlingand decision making. This necessitates upward, downward, lateral and diagonalcommunication facilities. The pattern of communication emerging in anorganisation may not exactly coincide with the intended system of hierarchy. Thishas led some to conclude, that the existent structure in an organisation is thatwhich results from the communication network that eventually takes shape.Analysis of organisational communication includes study of inter-group and intra-group interactions, involving social and cultural factors. In order to be effective, acommander should be able to identify the communication needs of hisorganisation and structure the network appropriately. A paper titled“Organisational Communication: Barriers and Bridges”, is placed at Appendix D.Conclusion35. Communication is one of the most important instruments in organisation.The quality of formal and personal communication is one of the decisive factorsin organisational effectiveness. In situations where intensive human interaction isa requirement, greater emphasis on good communication becomes inescapable.Competence in communication is a prerequisite for good leadership.Communication does not happen randomly in organisations. It has to bedeliberately built into the system and developed through effort by the leadership.Communication is a discipline by itself, based on systematic, scientificknowledge. This knowledge is growing, facilitating deeper insight into the subject.Leadership effectiveness cannot be achieved without a conscious effort tounderstand communication. A paper titled “Ten Commandments to GoodCommunication” is placed at Appendix E. BIBLIOGRAPHY1. Adler, RB Interplay – The Process of Interpersonal Communication,’. Holt Rinehard and Wintson, New York.2. Aggarwala D.V, ‘Organisational Communication Management’. Deep and Deep Publications; New Delhi, 1989.3. Athreya N.H; ‘The Executive Skill of Persuasive Listening’.4. Banerjee,S; ‘Culture and Communication’, 1986.5. David S Brown ‘Barriers to Successful Communication’, Management Review Dec 75.
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