Tenets of Communication by T.K. Gamble & M. Gamble

What is a tenet?

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, tenet is a principle, belief, or doctrine generally held to be true. This refers to generally-accepted notions on any concept just like communication. Moreover, dictionary.com defines tenet as any opinion, principle, doctrine, dogma, etc., especially one held as true by members of a profession, group, or movement. These two definitions share the same idea.

Communication is a Complex Process

As everyone knows, plants cannot live without sunlight. The existence of sunlight is important, and cannot be easily realized unless it disappears. The same as communication, its importance cannot be dug out easily. Furthermore, communication is a complex process that contains several steps. Primarily, the sender creates an idea, and interprets thoughts into messages, then delivers the messages to the receiver. Next, the receiver not only obtains messages but also copes with them. After that, the receiver responses by giving voice to sender or responses with some gestures and facial expressions. Ultimately, the sender gets the messages and notices the effect on the receiver. It is called reciprocating process. In this way, people communicate with each other effectively. 

Communication is Purposive

Knowing the many definitions and descriptions of communication and understanding its many elements, give you more or less a good perspective of the characteristics of the tenets of communication.

One important principle that you have to remember is communication is purposive. We communicate to serve a purpose or a combination of purposes depending on the context. These are:

  1. To express ideas and feelings, needs, and wants;
  2. To explain your knowledge, opinions, beliefs other significant ideas;
  3. To relate with other people and form a cordial relationship with them;
  4. To persuade others to believe in your ideas, beliefs, and claims;
  5. To entertain others with your wit and humor; and
  6. To appreciate the present moment and experience.

Different authors on the subject have different perspectives and lists of the tenets of communication that may guide you in the process of sending and receiving messages. Consider the following examples of tenets of communication by Gamble and Gamble (2012).

Communication is Dynamic

In the previous lesson, you have learned that communication is a complex process. It is also a dynamic process. All its elements interact and affect one another. What the sender says, for example, affects the feelings, ideas, and dispositions of the receiver. Likewise, how to receiver responds to the message encoded or sent by the sender will invariably affect the sending and receiving patterns of the people involved in the communication process. The environment, not just the noise in it, affects the process. More than usual, noise negatively affects the manner by which the communicators perceive the message. Hearing problems pose “threats” to the success of oral communication. Moreover, the present and past experiences of the communicators play a vital role in their interpretation and negotiation of meanings.

Communication is Unrepeatable and Irreversible

Communication is never the same. Every communication experience is unique even if people are saying the same thing. Since interlocutors are complex beings, they have different ways of appreciating the message. Teachers, for example, maybe teaching the same subject matter for years, but each communication encounter is different. First, the teacher herself/himself changes through the years as a result of personal and professional experiences and other factors in the environment. Second, each plus he/she handles is composed of different complex beings. No, two persons are exactly alike. Hence, their complexity as human beings influences the dynamism of every communication encounter. Third, the context of each communication experience is different. In one context, the communication may be between the teacher and a big class; in another, it could be between the teacher and a small section or group of students. At one time, the teacher may be in a stressful situation of persuading the students to study for an upcoming examination; at another occasion, the teacher finds himself/herself giving a remedial class about the same topic she/he is teaching or has already taught in the past. Communication is indeed, dynamic. It is never the same every time.

Moreover, communication is irreversible. How many times do our elders tell us that we cannot take back what we have just said? The effects on the receiver of what we have said – whether damaging or inspiring, is difficult to reverse.

Communication is Contextualized

Every time we communicate is always affected by circumstances and setting. These two are being referred to as context. You see, we communicate all the time. But, how we communicate changes based on who we are with, what sort of events are occurring around us, our opinions and beliefs, and where we are. Anything, from an empty stomach to bad weather, to an awkward situation, can form the context that defines our ability to communicate. Great communicators need to know how to interact in any context.

Communication is Everywhere

Communication has been and will always be a part of our lives. Wherever we go, we always use it. Therefore, it is safe to say that we should always take a crack in improving our communication skills in order to make our interaction with others be more meaningful.

Everywhere we go communication occurs. From buying pain reliever at the pharmacy to buying goods at the market, we do communicate. In classrooms discussions, meetings, conferences, or just casual chit chats, communication happens.

Communication is Continuous

All of us communicate with a purpose. It may be to inform, share an idea, persuade, or entertain. Whatever may be the purpose, the components involved in the communication process remain the same. And as long as there are coordination and interdependence among the components of communication there is every possibility that our communication will turn out to be effective.

The process of communication starts with the sender encoding the idea and sending it to the receiver via a medium or a channel. The receiver’s job is to decode the encoded message and extract information from it and also understand the message. After understanding it the receiver needs to provide feedback to the sender indicating that he/she has understood the message. If you look at Gronbeck’s Model of Communication, this tenet is very evident. Communication goes in a cyclical way, therefore indicates that it never stops.

Communication is a Transaction

Communication requires a sender, a message and a recipient. And, the recipient must understand the message. If a message is not received and understood, then communication has not occurred. Feedback is critical to ongoing communication. Each party must know that the other has both received and understood the previous message(s) for communication to continue. Without feedback, the communication process deteriorates and falls apart.

So, ongoing communication is a process: 
You send me a message. I acknowledge that I received and understood it. 
Then one (or both) of us can send another message containing more information about the topic. 
The receiving party acknowledges receipt and comprehension. The process continues.

The transactional part is only necessary for continuing bilateral communication: 
You give me something (a message). 
I give you something (an acknowledgment). 
This allows the process to continue.

Conceivably, one person could produce a monologue of any length, send it out, and not listen for acknowledgment afterward. If someone heard it and understood it, then communication would have occurred – the message would have been sent, received and understood. However, it one have been one-way communication only (books, radio, movies, and TV all provide one-way communication).

However, for a conversation to take place, messages must go in two (or more) directions. And, for an intelligent conversation to occur, all parties receive confirmation that their message was received and understood. Communication is a transactional process because it goes through an ordered sequence of the process.

Communication is Learned

Effective communication is an attainable and deliberately acquired skill set — one that can be learned and practiced over time. Too many people mistakenly believe that good communication skills are written into a person’s DNA. While it’s true that individual attributes can make these abilities easier to acquire, there is nothing that the world’s best communicators have that you can’t acquire through hard work.

Ask any impressive orator and they will tell you that the real magic is anchored in the precision work they do behind the scenes. And as an author and former presidential speechwriter James C. Humes writes, “The art of communication is the language of leadership.” Those who master the art can convince others to help them move mountains. This alone proves that communication is learned.

Communication is a Sharing of Meanings

According to Susan M. Heathfield, communication is sharing information between two or more individuals, the act of conveying information. Communication has so many components, and failing to communicate in the workplace effectively is commonplace.

Effective communication requires all components of a communication interworking perfectly for “shared meaning”. It is of particular importance when questions are asked and answered. In Schramm’s Field Model of Communication, the field of experience is a factor to the meaningful communication between interlocutors. If the latter share the same fields of experience, they share similar meanings.

Communication has two Levels of Meaning: Content and Relational

Content is the what of any message. It is the facts and figures, the ideas and opinions that we transmit through e-mails, conversations, memos, or notes on the bulletin board. It is anything that can be expressed in words.

Dr. Susan Glaser explains that the content level of meaning (the details, information, and facts that we intend to communicate) is decoded based on the relationship level of meaning (voice tone, loudness, speed and nonverbal gestures of the speaker).

Relational communication pertains to the who of any interaction. Though we may be unaware of it, every instance of content communication is surrounded by a field of relational communication that reveals the way parties view and are viewed by each other. It defines, in large part, the nature of the relationship between the two of them.

Relational meaning is a subset of interpersonal communication that focuses on the expression and interpretation of messages within close relationships. It includes all types of messages and interactions, as long as it is between two people in a close relationship (from vital relational messages to mundane everyday interactions).