Basic Elements of the Communication Process

Communication, as a process where people share information, feelings, and ideas, consists of four basic elements: the message, the medium, the sender, and the reliever. Basically, communication happens when a message is conveyed. In the process, there is the means by which such message is conveyed, the generator and communicator of the message, and the recipient to whom that message is intended. However, due to the complexity of the communication process, these elements may be modified and detailed in several ways. Alberts et al. (2007) present six basic elements of communication: the setting, participants, message creation, channels, noise, and feedback to explain how communication interaction unfolds. Other writers put it as follows: sender-receiver, message, channel, noise, feedback, and setting (Bovee & Thill 1992 & 1998; Burnett & Dollar 1989; Gibson & Hodgetts 1990).


Communication means that the sender and the receiver get involved in communication because they have ideas and feelings to share. This sharing, however, is not one-way or turn-taking process. In most communication situations, people are senders and receivers at the same time. They are the participants in a communication.


The message is made up of the ideas and feelings that the senders/receivers want to share. Moreover, ideas and feelings can only be shared if they are represented by symbols. Symbols are things that stand for something else. All communication messages are made up of two symbols: verbal and non-verbal.

The verbal symbols are all the words in a language, which stand for a particular thing or idea. A word is used to generally mean one thing. Verbal symbols can be even more complicated when they are abstract than concrete. Abstract symbols stand for ideas rather than objects. When two people use abstraction (e.g., love, beauty, justice), they may have different meanings because they had different experiences with the concept. 

The non-verbal symbols are anything we communicate without using words such as facial expressions, gestures, posture, colors, vocal tones, appearance, etc. They have certain meanings attached to them, which are culturally or even personally encoded and decoded.


The channels are routes traveled by a message as it goes between the senders/receivers. Sound and sight are primary channels in face-to-face communication, and even in not face-to-face. At present, it is increasingly common to use social networking sites for communication where we see and hear the person we are communicating within a manner similar to face-to-face. In mass media, the channels may be radio, records, television, newspapers, magazines, etc.


A feedback is a response of the receiver to the sender and vice versa. This is very important in communication since it tells how ideas and feelings have been shared in the way they are intended to.


Noise keeps a message from being understood or accurately interpreted. It occurs between senders and receivers. Noise may be an external or internal interference in transmitting and receiving the message. External noise is any noise that comes from the environment that keeps the message from being heard or understood. Internal noise occurs in the minds of the senders and receivers such as prior experience, absent-mindedness, feeling or thinking of something other than the communication taking place. Semantic noise is also a form of internal noise caused by people’s emotional reactions to words such as reactions to ethnic or sexist remarks.


The setting is essentially the context where communication occurs. It may be a venue, formal or informal seating arrangements, attire, use of sound system, etc.

In this communication process, the six elements can be summed up as: Who, the source (sender); What, the message; How, the medium; To Whom, the recipient (receiver); Why, the influence, impact, world view; and Where, the context.