The Basic Elements of Communication

Communication comes about when the Message is imparted as Information. At the minimum, two persons are involved in the process: one who delivers the Message and one who receives and understands the Message.

Based on the models of communication, it can be seen as a complex process having several elements such as the following:


The Speaker chooses his/her purpose, crafts the message accordingly, and decides how to deliver it, such as when a president delivers his state of the nation address. This is the first element of the communication process. But in other forms of communication, the Speaker might not be as obvious: when one is talking with his/her mother, both participants alternate as Speaker; when just hanging out with one’s friends, everyone can become a Speaker from time to time (but not at the same time!).


The Message is what needs to be delivered or imparted to somebody else. This is central to the process because the point of communicating is to say “something”. The Message to be sent is based on why the Speaker wants to say it (to inform or to persuade?), what the Speaker wants to say, and how the Speaker wants to say it. This is clearly seen in formal speeches such as the speech of Pope Francis at the 2015 Youth Summit at the University of Santo Tomas. There is always a message in communication, even in informal communication. The student talks with the teacher to ask about the assignment given when he/she was absent. Another message could be to convince his/her friends to go to the mall after class instead of going straight home.


The Listener receives the Message. It is said that even if the Speaker is great and the Message beautiful, if there is no Listener or the Listener is not paying attention, then communication fails. It is the Listener who makes sense of what is said and reacts to it—by clapping, nodding the head, replying, asking a return question, following the speaker, falling asleep, or walking out. Communication is an interactive process and if the Speaker is one-half of the communication, then the Listener is the other half. Imagine how it would feel when someone wanted to tell his/her best friend about something nice that happened today and found out that the friend was absent? Even more disappointing is if his/her best friend was present but, for some reason, did not want to listen to what the student wanted to say.


Channels are the means by which the Message is sent. There are only five channels: ears, eyes, skin, mouth, and nose. In other words, a message is sent and received via the senses. Of course, messages are first received through the ears by hearing, while gestures and facial expressions are received by the eyes through seeing. The skin, mouth, and nose are not the main pathways for sending a message, but they are still crucial in the imparting and receiving of messages. Imagine trying to comfort relatives whose house had just burned down. Not knowing what to say, an arm around their shoulders or an embrace will “say” the message. Crying with them may be even better. This is a message that does not use any words. Another illustration is when someone sticks his/her tongue out after having eaten something; this tells the people around him/her that what he/ she has just eaten is sour/bitter/hot. Then there’s the smell of food emanating from a restaurant that one passes by that is meant to tempt potential diners to come in and eat, right?


The Response is the only way the Speaker knows that the Message has been received. Whether the Listener responds or not is central to the communication process. The Response is, of course, based on the Interpretation of the Message by the Listener. If the Interpretation is positive, then the Response will be positive. Listeners will say yes, nod their heads, smile, or clap their hands. They will even do what the Message asks: sign a petition, work in the school garden, or volunteer for a program. But if the Interpretation is negative, then the Response will also be negative. They will frown, boo, refuse to clap (or clap just out of politeness), even walk out, or walk away. For example, if listeners agree that planting trees is one way of helping save the environment, then those who agree will come to the tree planting area. Those who don’t agree (even if they “say” they do) will not even show up.


Feedback is the result of monitoring by the Speaker of the Listener’s Response. As already discussed in the previous paragraph, the Listener may respond to the Message, positively or negatively. The Speaker needs to watch out for this Response to know if the Message was effectively imparted or not. Making sure of what the Feedback is will help the Speaker in continuing with the next Message.


“Noise” is any barrier to communication. It could be physical “noise”—actual noise such as loud music or the irritating engine of a motorcycle. Even a seatmate who talks to you while the teacher is explaining the lesson is “noise” because it prevents you from listening to the teacher. The second type of “noise” is physiological—when the body becomes a hindrance to good communication. For example, because of a headache or a toothache, one may not be able to effectively listen to a friend, listen to music, or do anything for that matter. The third type is psychological”noise”which occurs when one is thinking deeply about something or is suffering from an emotional condition (sadness, depression, confusion), which discourages participation in a,communication situation.

Communicative Situation

Communicative Situation has two components: the physical location and the psychological setting. The physical location is usually chosen for the purpose it will serve: a classroom that can be used for a meeting, an auditorium which can be transformed into a theater for a play, and the streets that serve as the setting for rallies. The psychological setting depends on the participants. The classroom is for teaching, but the Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) holds its meeting there; the auditorium for school programs is now the stage for the Drama Club’s production of “Supremo,” the Life of Bonifacio; the streets meant for moving vehicles to traverse is now used by the group One Billion Rising to hold a rally protesting violence against women.

As illustrated by the models of communication introduced, these elements are present in all of our communication. They combine, interact, and are intertwined in the process of communication. Everything proceeds smoothly when the elements of communication work properly.