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Communication Definition

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The word “Communication” is derived from the Latin word “communis” which means commonness. Communication is the process of transmitting information, thoughts, opinions, messages, facts, ideas, emotions and understanding from one person / place / thing to another person / place / thing. 

“Communication is an exchange of facts, ideas, opinions or emotions by two or more persons”. – Newman and Summer 

“Communication means the imparting, conveying or exchange of ideas, knowledge, whether by speech, writing or signs”. – Oxford English Dictionary 

Communication Definition

Communication is the process of exchanging information. The word “Communication” is derived from the Latin word “communis” which means commonness. Communication is the process of transmitting information, thoughts, opinions, messages, facts, ideas, emotions and understanding from one person / place / thing to another person / place / thing. 

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Communication has become an essence of management. The manager spends 80% of his total time on communicating. He communicates with the superiors, subordinates, peers and other parties dealing with the organization such as customers, trade union leaders and government officials. 

It is an important element of directing function. But the manager has to communicate with regard to his other managerial functions. Effective Communication is a flash of lightning and even more illuminating. It enables us to understand others and make ourselves understand. It is an established fact that managers spend 75 to 90% of their working time communicating with others. 

Many research studies have concluded that individual and organizational performance can be improved by effective communication. Not only this but how effective and efficient the manager is on his job depends on his communication skills and abilities. To secure better results, effective communication seems to be more important than exercising control and using formal authority. 


What is the Best Definition of Communication?

M. T. Myers and G. E. Myers, “Communication refers to a special kind of patterning; patterning which is expressed in symbolic form. For communication to take place between or among people two requirements must be met- (1) a symbolic system must be shared by the people involved (we need to speak the same language or jargon or dialects) and (2) the associations between the symbols and their referents must be shared.

Meaning and Definition of Communication 

Communication is the process of sharing information. It means exchange of ideas between two or more people. The interactions which are involved in the communication process are governed by three levels of semiotic rules i.e. syntactic, pragmatic and semantic. 

It is a kind of social interaction where at least two interacting agents share their views, feelings, and thoughts within the framework of a common set up. In other words we can say it is the interaction between a sender and a receiver of certain information. 

Therefore “Communication” is defined as an exchange of facts, ideas, opinion or emotions and as a way that individuals or organizations share meaning and understanding with one another. In a specific manner, communication may be viewed as the transfer of information of one entity to another, no matter the entity being individual or a body corporate. 

In the simplest form, communication is the means by which organizations’ mission is activated and achieved. In a civilized society communication is the most important media through which we all are guided. In this connection John Adour wrote “Communication is essentially the ability of one person to make contact with another and to make him/her understood”. 

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The word communication comes from the Latin verb “communicare” which means to participate, to share in common. It implies a common view and common feeling that cannot be kept inside rather it is to be shared by all. Therefore, the sense of “sharing” is very vital in the communication process. 


Communication Definition by Different Authors 

1. “Communication is an intercourse by words, letter symbols or messages and is a way that one organization member shares meaning and understanding with another”. – Koontz and ‘O’ Donnell 

2. “Communication is an exchange of facts, ideas, opinions or emotions by two or more persons”. – Newman and Summer 

3. “Communication means the imparting, conveying or exchange of ideas, knowledge, whether by speech, writing or signs”. – Oxford English Dictionary 

4. “Communication is the sum of all things one person does when he wants to create understanding in the mind of another”. – Louise A. Allen 

5. Comstock Glaser – “Such is the life of any executive reading or writing letters, memoranda and reports constantly conferring and telephoning – such is administration in general – continuous round of written and verbal contract between workers and with outsiders”. 

6. W. H. Newman and C.E. Summer – “Communication is an exchange of facts, ideas, opinions or emotions by two or more people”. 

7. Theo Haimann – “It is the process of passing information and understanding from one person to another”. 

8. Terry – “Communication is the means by which the act of delegation is accomplished”. 

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9. American Society of Training Directors, “The interchange of thoughts or information to bring about mutual understanding and confidence or good human relation”. 

10. Leland Brown, “Communication is the transmission and interchange of facts, ideas, feelings, or course of action”. 

11. Ordway Tead, “Communicating is a composite of information given and received, of a learning experience in which certain attitudes, knowledge, and skills change, carving with them alternations of behaviour, of listening effort by all involved, of a sympathetic fresh examination of issues by the communicator himself, of a sensitive interacting points of view, leading to a higher level of shared understanding and common intention.” 

12. Theo Haiemann, “Communication is the process of passing information and understanding from one person to another. It is the process of imparting ideas and making oneself understood by others.” 

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13. Chester Barnard, “In exhaustive theory of organisation, communication would occupy a central place because the structure, extensiveness, and scope of organisation are almost entirely determined by communication techniques.” 

14. Simon, “The question to be asked of any administrative process is – How does it influence the decisions of the individuals without communication, the answer must always be – It does not influence them at all.” 

15. “Communication is an exchange of facts, ideas, opinions or emotions by two or more persons.”W.H. Norman and Summer 

16. Communication is defined as “the process of passing information and understanding from one person to another. It is essentially a bridge of meaning between the people. By using the bridge a person can safely cross the river of misunderstanding.”Keith Davis 

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17. “Communication is the sum total of all the things that a person does, when he wants to create an understanding in the mind of another. It involves a systematic and continuous process of telling, listening and understanding.”Louis A. Allen 

18. “Communication may be broadly defined as the process of meaningful interaction among human beings. More specifically it is the process by which meanings are perceived and understanding is reached among human beings.”D.E. Mc Farland 

19. George Vardman in his book ‘Effective Communication of Ideas’ defines effective communication as “purposive interchange, resulting in workable understanding and agreement between the sender and receiver of a message”. 

20. Robert Anderson, in his concept of communication, adds the element of medium also. In Professional Selling, he observes, “Communication is the interchange of thoughts, opinions, or information, by speech, writing, or signs”. 

21. Emphasising the various processes of communication, Allen Louis says, “Communication is the sum of all the things one person does when he wants to create understanding in the mind of another; it involves a systematic and continuous process of telling, listening, and understanding.” 

22. “Communication is the process by which information is transmitted between individuals and /or organisations so that an understanding response results.” — Peter Little 

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23.  “Communication is an exchange of facts, ideas, opinions or emotions by two or more persons.” — George Terry 

24. Communication has been defined “as the transfer of information from one person to another whether or not it elicits confidence.” — Koontz and O’Donnell .

25. According to Theo Haimann, “Communication is the process of passing information and understanding from one person to another….It is the process of imparting ideas and making oneself understood by others.”

26. Communication is a process of passing information and understanding from one person to another. — Keith Davis 

27. Communication is any behaviour that results in an exchange of meaning. — The American Management Association 

28. Communication may be broadly defined as the process of meaningful interaction among human beings. More specifically, it is the process by which meanings are perceived and understandings are reached among human beings. — D.E. McFarland 

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29. Communication is the process by which information is passed between individuals and/or organisations by means of previously agreed symbols. – Peter Little 

30. A wider and more comprehensive definition is given by National Joint Committee for the Communicative Needs of Persons with Severe Disabilities: 

 Any act by which one person gives to or receives from another person information about that person’s needs, desires, perceptions, knowledge, or affective states. Communication may be intentional or unintentional, may involve conventional or unconventional signals, may take linguistic or non- linguistic forms, and may occur through spoken or other modes. — Julia Scherba de Valenzuela, Ph.D. 

These definitions show that communication involves exchange of thoughts between two parties. Communication is the transmission of information and meaning from one individual or group to another. The crucial element is meaning. 

Communication is successful only when the receiver understands an idea as the sender intended it. Both parties must agree not only on the information transmitted but also on the meaning of that information. 

In order to transfer an idea, we must use symbols (words, signs, pictures, sounds) which stand for the idea. The symbols must be understood by the person or persons with whom we intend to communicate. Both must assign the same meaning to the symbols used; otherwise, there is miscommunication. Unless there is a common understanding of the symbols, it is not possible to communicate.


Communication Definition – by Keith Davis

Analysing some of the definitions of communication, we notice a gradual change in its meaning over the years. Keith Davis (1972) defined it as- … the transfer of information and understanding from one person to another, one business organisation to another. It is a way of reaching others with facts, ideas, thoughts and values. It is a bridge of meaning among people so that they can share what they feel and know. By using this bridge a person can safely cross the river of misunderstanding that sometimes separates people.

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This definition makes some important observations which have been listed below:

a. Communication involves a minimum of two people, the sender and the receiver.

b. The sender transmits/conveys/sends the message to establish common and shared knowledge.

c. Knowledge can be shared only if the receiver understands the meaning of the message, which means that understanding the meaning of the message is as crucial as its transference.

d. While communicating, there are chances of misunderstandings that may occur due to misinterpretation of the message.

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Communication thus builds a bridge of understanding between the sender and the receiver of the message. This definition does not talk about the role that ‘attitude’ plays in the process of sending and receiving messages.

The American Management Association defines communication as any behaviour which results in an exchange of meaning. As this is a very broad definition, some social scientists are of the opinion that communication is mutual exchange of facts, thoughts, and perceptions, resulting in common understanding between the sender and the receiver.

This definition, as you can see, is an improvement on Keith Davis’s definition because here:

a. Communication is considered a two-way process;

b. It is purposeful, and

c. It involves thoughts, feelings, and emotions.

This, however, does not cover all the components of the complexity of communicating in today’s world.

Let us now look at a comprehensive definition given by Vardaman and Halterman in Managerial Control through Communication (1968).

By communication we mean the flow of material, information, perception and understanding between various parts and members of an organisation…all the methods and means and media of communication (communication technology), all the channels, network and systems of communication (organisational structure) all the person-to-person interchange (interpersonal communication)…it includes all aspects of communication – up, down, lateral, speaking, writing, listening, reading, methods, media, modes, channels, networks, flow, interpersonal, inter-organisational.

This definition highlights all the three important aspects of effective communication: mode, channel and means of communication. When all these aspects are given due importance, the ensuing communication produces the desired results.

It can thus be surmised that the meaning of ‘communication’ has changed from mere oratory or rhetoric to making meaning of what is being said or conveyed. It has become a complex phenomenon in today’s world in which English is used as lingua franca (a common language used by speakers of different languages) whereby it is shared among many groups of native speakers and is used as a common language by non-native speakers of different languages.

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