As he did for so many other sciences and branches of philosophy, the Greek philosopher Aristotle created a model for communication that reigned for thousands of years. His model had three elements: speaker, speech, and audience. As new communication media arose (first print, then radio and television), communication scholars renamed the components “sender,” “message,” and “receiver.” But the model remained essentially unchanged: the sender transfers meaning to the mind of the receiver via the message. Communication skills consisted of clarifying the message and delivering it in a memorable way.
But about 60 years ago, communication scholars refined the model to conform with the findings of psychology and information theory. The “convergence model,” as it is known, describes communication, not as an event but a process. The sender and receiver engage in interpretation and response toward the goal of mutual understanding. Meaning is not in the message. Meaning is something that gets worked out by the sender and receiver. Each of them is active in the process. Communication skills aren’t so simple anymore.
Because both the sender and the receiver are involved in creating meaning, the sender can be more successful by accounting for whatever is going on in the mind of the receiver. In most everyday communication, like “Please return your tray tables to their upright position,” it doesn’t really matter which model of communication you use. The old sender/receiver model works fine. But the convergence model becomes more necessary as the message becomes more subtle or important. And this is why communication skills are so critical to business success, because the higher you advance in business, the more subtle and important your messages become.
In Communispond’s communication performance solution, Mastering Interpersonal Communication™, we embrace the idea that meaning is worked out between the sender and the receiver. In that program of communication skills, learners explore the key skills of productive dialogue and begin to achieve their communication goals through a six-step process:
- Open a discussion.
- Recognize the other person’s viewpoint.
- Give your information clearly.
- Create clarity and understanding.
- Brainstorm to overcome obstacles.
- Ensure the next steps are taken.
In addition, the learners have the opportunity to learn about their own core personality traits, which is a step toward understanding the core personality traits of others. They learn to adapt their actions and style to promote message effectiveness. When you truly recognize the collaborative nature of communication, you become a better and more persuasive communicator and a master of communication skills.