Fundamentals of Communication

Most of the verbal communicating you do is from one individual to another. This is true whether you’re in a family, social, or a work setting.

One-on-one verbal communication affords the greatest opportunity for precision, because immediate feedback can tell you whether you were understood accurately.

But communicating effectively involves more than just accuracy.

The purpose of most communication is to influence the attitudes and behaviors of those whom we address. Since the human race is composed of billions of individuals, each with a different way of responding, no one approach is universally effective. So it’s important that you learn to express yourself accurately and in a way that will accomplish your purpose toward the individual you’re addressing.

The Basic Process of Communicating

To achieve precision and effectiveness in communicating, you should understand the basic process of communication. It has four requirements:

¨ A message must be conveyed.

¨ The message must be received.

¨ There must be a response.

¨ Each message must be understood.

Let’s look at these requirements one at a time.

A Message Must Be Conveyed

That sounds simple enough. You know what your thoughts are, and you know how to translate them into words. But that’s where we lose the simplicity.

Each of us has our own mental dialect. It is the common language of the culture in which we grow up, modified by our own unique life’s experiences. Our life’s experiences add color and shades of meaning to different words.

When you speak, your mental dialect must be translated into the mental dialect of the hearer. So the words you speak acquire a different color when they pass through the ears of the person who hears you.

It Depends Upon Where You Are

You can probably think of numerous opportunities for misunderstandings on your job and in your culture. If you tell your travel agent you want a flight to Portland, be sure to specify Maine or Oregon. Otherwise, you may end up on the wrong coast. A colleague of mine once flew to Ohio to keep a speaking engagement in Columbus. Too late, he realized that the group he was to address was in Columbus, Georgia. If someone in my hometown of High Point, North Carolina asks me, “How did Carolina do in the big game last night?” I know the reference is to the Tar Heels of the University of North Carolina. If somebody in Columbia puts the question in those precise words, I know that “Carolina” means the Gamecocks of the University of South Carolina. In most cities, if you ask a newsstand operator for the Sunday Times, you’ll be handed a New York Times. But in St. Petersburg, Florida, or Seattle, Washington, you’re likely to get the local newspaper.

A Message Must Be Received

The second basic requirement of the one-on-one communication process is that the message be received and understood. Effective communicators know that they have not conveyed their meaning until they have made sure that the other person has received it exactly as they sent it. They test, with questions and observations, to make sure that the real meaning they wanted to convey has passed through the filters and has been received and understood.

There Must Be A Response

The goal of all communication is to obtain the desired response. You want to say something correctly, and have your hearer understand what you mean by it. But you also want the hearer to do something in response.

Each Message Must Be Understood

Once a message has been delivered, received and responded to, it’s time to take stock of what each person has communicated. The cycle of communication is complete only when you come away with a clearer understanding of the person with whom you sought to communicate. You may not always agree with the other person, and the other person may not always agree with you — but it is important that you understand each other.

Nido Qubein is president of High Point University and chairman of Great Harvest Bread Company with 200 stores in 41 states. He has given more than 5,000 presentations to audiences worldwide and has authored more than two dozen books and audio programs on leadership, sales, communication, and achievement. For more information on Nido Qubein and his learning resource tools, visit his web site at

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