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To understand how the critical elements of understanding and sharing of meaning (as used in describing communication), inform intrapersonal and interpersonal communication relationships of communication, lets first try to understand some key words such as communication, inter and intra personal communication, etc.

Communication Defined

In its simplest form, communication is the transmission of message from a source to a receiver. For over 60yrs this view of communication has been identified with the writing of political scientist Harold Lasswell (1948). He says that a convenient way to describe communication is to answer the questions of

·         Who

·         Says what

·         Trough which channel

·         To who

·         With what effect




A source sends a msg.      Through a medium             To a receiver          Producing effect

Based on this theory, communication will be seen to be straightforward enough but what if for example, the source is a Professor who insists on speaking in technical language that is far beyond the receiving student’s level of understanding. It is quite obvious that communication does not occur. Unlike mere message-sending, communication requires the response of others or what is known as feed-back therefore there must be a sharing of meaning for communication to take place. A second problem with this theory is that it suggests that the receiver only accepts the sender’s message. Based on the e.g. earlier, we can derive that students do not understand the message and they may respond with words like “Huh?”, “what?” or look confused. This feed-back is also a message. The students, who were initially the receivers, now become the source, sending their own message back to the original source (the professor) who now becomes the receiver. Communication is therefore reciprocal and an ongoing process with all parties involved in creating shared meaning. Communication then is better defined as ‘the process of creating shared meaning”. Communication can therefore be worked out like this; C - conversation, O - oral, M – message, M – meanings,                        U – understanding, N – nonverbal, I – inference, C – cooperation, A – actions, T – talking,     I – interpretation, O – opinion, N – negotiation.

Understanding’, as an element in communication

Understanding in the context of communication is simply the knowing and comprehending of the message being communicated. Kofi would be said to have understood what Ama communicated to him only when he is able to deduce meaning from whatever Ama communicated. Communication is a process that requires understanding. It involves perceiving interpretation and construction of meaning of verbal and non-verbal behaviours of others. Understanding meanings of each other’s message demand that the two communicators, share common meanings for words, phrases and non-verbal codes. So when A says come to B and B knows what A means by come, he performs whatever action that is expected by A accordingly. Here also, when for example a teacher’s way of saying “he’s done for the day” is by shutting his book loudly and since his students know this, any time he shuts his book loudly, the students can begin to pack their books and leave without second thoughts and the ‘shutting of the book loudly’, becomes a non-verbal code understood by the students.  Understanding involves the intension to convey or the actual response you get. The meaning of our communication is not what we think it means but based on the response we get from the other person.

‘Sharing’, as an element of communication

Sharing in communication terms is the ability to have something in common in relation to what is being communicated. Sharing involves interaction between people to exchange meaning and the giving and receipt that assume something in common with others. Common mistake is perceived communication in terms of only ‘sending’ or transmitting information where sending implies transmission without regard for the receivers state of mind. Sharing implies that both the sender and the receiver involved in mutual exchange and understanding of meanings.



Intrapersonal Communication

Intrapersonal communication is a type of communication that is psychological (i.e. mental or emotional as opposed to physical in nature)

It is defined as the process of understanding meaning and sharing meaning with one’s self which is also known as “Self talk”. It is also when an individual sends and receives messages internally. An important concept in intrapersonal communication is the idea of an individual (‘indivisible’- Latin). Intrapersonal communication occurs before and during communication and that is why it is considered the foundation of communication or the basic level of communication.

Interpersonal Communication

Interpersonal communication is the personal process co-ordinating meaning between at least two people in a situation that allows mutual opportunities for both sender and receiver. It can involve direct communication or face to face relationship, between the sender and receiver of a message who are in an inter-dependant relationship. It has the features of immediacy – taking place now -, primacy – taking place here -, complexity – highly reliant on the characteristic of the sender and the receiver and highly contextual – depending on a lot of circumstances or situations.

How ‘understanding’ and sharing of meaning within participants inform intra and inter personal communication.

Communication is not a simple process as we can now see but based on the elaborations above on interpersonal and intrapersonal communication, how do these two inform us on the understanding and sharing of meaning within participants.

First of all we deduce from the explanations above that before communication begins, the sender must select a way to send the message. This means he must put in ‘appropriate’ words or symbols and then transmit it through a channel (which also he deems appropriate) to the receiver who then interprets the message. That is to say that before any type of communication begins, there must be intrapersonal communication. The sender first selecting the way to send the message is not creating understanding but rather creating a ‘device’ that will make the communication understood for both parties to share the same meaning. Kofi would speak to everyone in english but decides to speak twi every time he speaks to Ama only. This means that even though Kofi might find speaking English favourable, he knows in order to communicate to Ama effectively, thus for Ama to understand and share the same meaning with him, he has to speak twi. Kofi knows this not necessarily because Ama told him but based on the feed-back (verbal and non-verbal) he has had (in previous times) or has in relation to speaking twi or english. The simplest explanations of communication begin to get complex when the sender wonders what kind of message to send to a particular person, how the person might receive it or even if the person will receive it. In short, there is a difference between communication and ‘effective’ communication and intrapersonal communication is the basic stage of effective communication. Intrapersonal communication enables us to know that you have to know your receiver in other to determine which words to select – whether to say “ok” or to say “roger that” which basically means the same thing.

Interpersonal communication as compared to the intrapersonal communication will be found to be different altogether. Thus I believe intrapersonal communication is done to promote interpersonal communication. In creating understanding and meaning within participants here some factors like, strong feed-back, various elements of non-verbal communication and the number of persons involved have to be considered. Based on interpersonal communication also, we can deduce that during communication there has to be a form of sharing. There also has to be an easy exchange of roles. Thus one person becomes the sender in a specific point in time and then becomes the receiver at another point in time. This easy exchange of roles is also as a result of a common aim or goal which is to understand and share the same meaning of whatever is being communicated. Interpersonal communication also makes it clearer since it is a personal process of co-ordinating that communication begins with oneself before it comes out. Its participants being inter-dependant in relationship means communication cannot be done when one person is absent and thus during the process of communication, the two bodies depend on each other to derive the understanding and share a meaning. Lastly the definition of interpersonal communication suggest at least two people in a ‘situation’ in the sense that communication itself can produce understanding and a shared meaning based on the ‘context’ or ‘environment’ that the communication is taking place in. That is how Kwame say’s “sorry” to someone he’s hurt will be different from the way he says the same to another who has lost the father.

By secreteye
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