The word communication is derived from the Latin terms cum munis [to make common] and communicare [to share]. Hence, communication is defined as the exchange of information, thoughts, ideas, feeling and the like. Because of its complexity, scholars and experts cast various definitions of communication. Griffin (2006) says that there are around more than 120 definitions as applied in operationalizing the concept of communication.
Communication is any process in which people share information, ideas, and feelings to construct meaning, establish relations and build understanding. It is a meaningful exchange that involves not only the spoken and written word, but also body language, personal mannerisms and style, the physical environment – anything that adds meaning to a message (Hybels & Weaver, 1998). This process takes place through the exchange of verbal and nonverbal messages (Brooks & Heath, 1993).
Communication is nature to humans. We communicate because it is nature to our ability as feeling, thinking and socializing creatures. In our daily lives we always engage in various forms of communication. Our very existence and our relationships depend heavily on how we are able to communicate what we feel and think, yet we often overlook the importance of understanding communication because it is too common to us.
Looking at Communication as a Process
Communication takes place, everywhere at anytime. It changes in various situations and affects change among participants as the process takes place. Process implies dynamics and change. It implies parts interacting and influencing each other so as to function as a whole. Brooks and Heath posit that when we accept the concept of process, we view communication events and relationships as dynamic, systematic, transactional, adaptive, and continuous:
- Communication is dynamic – it is not static. It is not fixed but always changing. As it deals with change of behavior it changes constantly.
- Communication is systematic – a simple speech communication occurs within a larger system. It is a system itself composed of interrelated and interdependent elements working together to achieve a desired outcome.
- Communication is transactional – the essence of the term transaction is relationship. Included in the transactional characteristic of communication is the fact that each communication event is unique combination of people, messages, and situation that operate to achieve some definite purpose.
- Communication is adaptive – communication takes place with an intention to achieve some outcome. In this process it must adapt to change. Thus, communication must pay attention to the other person, to the topic, to the physical surroundings, to motives and needs, and to other elements that we will study in this text. The ability to adjust and adapt to changing situation is a characteristic of effective communication.
- Communication is continuous – it has no beginning and no end. We can consider communication as a product of a previous communication event that proceeds to another communication situation.
The study of oral communication considers the process as essential to facilitate understanding between the speaker and the audience. Thus, communication is viewed as the process of understanding and sharing meaning consists of activities of exchange and sets of behavior that applies in the perception, interpretation, and comprehension of meaning of the verabl and non-verbal behavior of individuals (Pearson & Nelson, 2000). Therefore, oral communication is understood as that dynamic and systematic process of sharing meaning and understanding meaning through verbal and non-verbal exchange between individuals in interaction within a given context.
Brooks, W.D. & Heath, R.W. (1993). Speech communication. Madison, WI: Brown & Benchmark.
Griffin, E. (2006). A first look at communication theory, 6th ed. New York: McGraw Hill Higer Education.
Hybels, S. & Weaver, R. (1998). Communicating effectively: A definition of Commuinication. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.
Pearson, J.C. & Nelson, P.E. (2000). An introduction to human communication, understanding and sharing, 8th ed. Boston, MA: McGraw Hill Higher Education.