Basic communication processes

Communication is simply the sending and receiving of information between at least two people. The message may be verbal or non-verbal, but to be effective, the message sent must be in a language or code that the receiver will understand.

For example, in the context of a residential care facility, telling the young people that 'It is ten pm.' is commonly understood as 'Turn the TV off'. In another context, young people may read this as a signal to head off to a nightclub.

Successful communication

The sender encodes their message into verbal or non-verbal language that the receiver correctly decodes.

Communication problems occur when sender and receiver do not share the same code or understanding of the language used.

For example, when young people use the word 'whatever' in response to a question it is often unclear to parents whether this signals agreement, disagreement or general apathy.

Unsuccessful communication

The channel describes how the information is relayed. For example:

  • Verbal channels include face-to-face meetings, telephone and videoconferencing.
  • Non-verbal channels include sign languages, body language, gestures, and facial expressions.
  • Written channels include letters, emails, memos and reports, signs and symbols.

Different communication channels have different strengths and weaknesses; the most important thing is that the receiver can access the message through that channel.

For example, if the intended receiver has a hearing disability and you do not share a common non-verbal language, your message would be better understood in written form.

The two-way communication process

In an effective two-way communication the sender (or source):

  • encodes the message into a form the receiver will understand
  • relays the message via an appropriate channel.

The receiver is then able to:

  • access the message
  • decode the message.

The receiver in turn becomes the sender, providing an appropriate response, and the process continues until the communication concludes.

The two-way communication process

Source (external)

At any time in the process, a lack of response or an inappropriate response would alert the sender to a problem with the communication. The sender would then need to encode the message differently, or use a different channel to ensure that the communication is received and understood.


Tips for two-way communication. Two-way communication is a process in which two (or more) people have an ongoing communication by exchanging the roles of sender and receiver.

Section 1 readings (Word Document 53KB)

Last modified: Monday, 9 September 2013, 3:23 PM