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The Communication Process Model


          Communication has gone through several distinct models over time. The first model was linear. Messages only went one way. A person says something, and another receives it. The second model was interactive. Messages could go both ways, but not at the same time. A person says something, another person receives it then responds, the first person receives it then responds… Continuing until someone eventually stops responding. The third model (what we use today) is transactional. Messages are free-flowing, transferring simultaneously between two people. The transactional model constantly affects everyone involved. 

Person A sends a message that is received by Person B. Person B does not respond to Person A.


Person A sends a message that is received by person B. Person B then sends a message back to person A. This process continues until someone stops it. 


Communication Process Model is a system of elements that conversations, public speaking, and other forms of communication follow

          The Communication Process Model contains seven elements that can be applied to conversations, public speaking, and any other method of communication. It is important to learn what each element does in the process not just their names. As you can see, there are a variety of names used for the elements, depending on need, perception, and preference. Understanding the function of the element can give you insights into what is occurring in a particular communication situation. 

The Speaker

Encoding is the creation of the message through a string of symbols and words to convey meaning

          The speaker (sometimes referred to as the source, sender, or initiator) is where the communication starts. The speaker’s job is to encode a message to the receiver. Encoding is the creation of the message through a string of symbols and words to convey meaning. Encoding can be an area where miscommunication occurs as it is based on the speaker’s frame of reference and understanding of the message they want to convey.

The Receiver

Decoding is the breaking down of the messages to incorporate/interpret the meaning

          The receiver (sometimes referred to as the listener or audience) takes in the message sent by the speaker and decodes it. Decoding is the breaking down of the messages to incorporate/interpret the meaning. Decoding can also be where miscommunication occurs the most as it is often based on the receiver’s personal frame of reference and interpretation. A frame of reference refers to the emotional factors in being human, being passionate, and it is often based on your experiences and your upbringing.

The Message

          The message is the meaning or informational content being transferred from the speaker to the receiver through any number of channels.

The Channel

          The channel is the way, means, or route in which the message/meaning is conveyed. Channels use both the speaker’s and receiver’s senses, including visual, aural (hearing), feeling, smelling, or taste. Speakers can use any combination of channels to route their messages and convey meaning.

Examples: Authors use printed words, musicians use musical notes, dancers use body movement, drummers in a distant village use drumming, speakers use verbal and nonverbal channels, skywriters use the trails they leave behind.


Internal Interference are the things going on inside of the speaker or the receiver

External Interference are things that are going on around the speaker or receiver

          Interference (sometimes referred to as barriers, noise, or distractions) is anything that hinders the message/meaning from getting through. Interference can occur at any point in the process and within any of the elements. There are two types of interference, internal and external.

         Internal Interference are things going on inside of the speaker or the receiver. These things may not be seen easily. Speakers and receivers must look beyond the physical effects presented by the internal interferences to accurately understand the background affecting the situation or message. 


Examples: Disagreements with loved ones lingering in the mind, hunger, tiredness, thinking about work, having to use the restroom, headaches, etc.


          External Interference are things that are going around the speaker or the receiver.


Examples: A noisy hallway, airplanes flying overhead, dogs barking, babies crying, a flickering light, smells of food or drink in the room, a person’s flashy clothing choice, the temperature, an audience member talking loudly to the person sitting next to them, etc. 


          Feedback is similar to the message in that it refers to all responses to the message/meaning from the receiver to the speaker through any number of channels. Feedback can be verbal or nonverbal and can include nodding heads, smiling, scowling, or looks of confusion. Other forms of feedback include yelling, finger-pointing, and leaving the situation altogether. 

Examples: An audience member claps for a particular point during a speech, an audience member nodding in agreement to the message, an audience member yawning during the speech.

The Situation

          Situation (sometimes referred to as context or setting) is where, when, or how communication occurs. The situation governs all elements of the communication process. Analyzing the situation or context gives both the speaker and listener the ability to understand the communication taking place at a particular moment. For the speaker, it can provide information to help in encoding their message for the greatest impact with the receivers, such as what the audience is there for, how they may react to the message, what type of information do they need, etc. For listeners, it can provide information on the focus of the message, the intent of the speaker, the length of time for the speech, etc. 

Example: A speaker realizes her speech is taking place in a lecture hall with large exterior windows just before lunch. The speaker may want to lower the window coverings to limit external interference. She may also want to keep her speech short to quash the receiver’s hunger (internal interference). 

Person A sends a message to Person B through a channel while fighting interference. Person B can send feedback through the same or a different channel to Person A. This feedback can take place at the same time as Person A’s message. 

Transactional Communication Model.png

Review Questions

1) What are the two types of interference? How are they similar?

2) Who is the encoder? Who is the decoder? How do the two interact?

3) What type of communication model do we use today?

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