Functions of Communication

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Why do people communicate with others, whether it is with a friend, a teacher, or a parent? ls it because someone wants something from someone else? Or is it because other people are asking for something from them? People also communicate with groups or with an audience—be it in real life or on radio and TV or via the Internet. 

Communication is a complex process, as we have learned in Chapter I, with elements, levels, and dimensions. People do not just communicate because people love to talk. Humans communicate for several reasons: regulation and control, social interaction, motivation, information, and emotional expression. Collectively, these reasons are called the Functions of Communication. Each Function is based on the Speaker’s purpose for communicating.

If the Speaker’s purpose is to control others by managing their behavior, then the Speaker is using the function of Regulation and Control. This can be seen in the example of making an announcement that the community will start segregating their garbage. This function is also demonstrated by the simple act of telling someone to be quiet or encouraging someone to continue discussing the topic.

The second function is Social Interaction, the most familiar and the primary reason why people communicate. This is because people do love to talk and love to talk with each other. Talking with one another is one way people are entertained. Humans talk for the sole purpose of coming together as a society. Social Interaction allows people to be connected with one another. A family becomes close not because they live under the same roof, but because each member interacts with another. Friends get together to interact and enjoy each other’s company. A new acquaintance can become a friend by getting to know that person through more opportunities for interaction.

Motivation is the third Function of Communication.This is when the Speaker’s purpose is to persuade or try to persuade another person to change his/her opinion, attitude, or behavior. This is different from Regulation and Control where the Speaker simply directs others and insists on his/her own agenda. In this Function, persuasion is used to move the Listener away from his/her own position towards the Speaker’s own or the position where the Speaker wants the other person to move. For example, having the Listener agree with the Speaker that there is a “Pope Francis effect” is one such agenda. Convincing friends to go to the mall after school to watch a movie is another example.

The fourth Function is the most useful: Information. This Function is used when the Speaker wants to make others aware of certain data, concepts, and processes – knowledge that may be useful to them. This may be something as serious as knowing what the MRSA virus is and how to avoid getting it. Or something less serious but just as important such as when and where the school graduation will be held and what the other details are.

Lastly, Emotional Expression is another Function of Communication. More than Regulation and Control, more than Motivation, Emotional Expression is used by a Speaker for the purpose of moving another person to action. The Speaker appeals to the Listener’s feelings and emotions to encourage him/her to act in a particular direction. Receiving Messages that include pictures of the devastation brought about by a typhoon such as Yolanda, or photos of children dying or crying because of hunger, the Receiver of the Message cannot help but be moved to do something: donate money, clothes, food, and water, or even volunteer to help build new houses for the victims. 

Therefore, a Speaker has five major reasons for communicating, also known as the Functions of Communication. It must be remembered that these functions overlap. To Regulate or Motivate, it is sometimes necessary to first Inform. On the other hand, Social Interaction also involves Emotional Expression. So does Motivation. Moreover, these Functions use both verbal and nonverbal cues to accomplish a specific purpose of communication that the Speaker has in mind.

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