Communication Variables

There are numerous variables involved in the communication process that can impact the way a message is heard and interpreted. Differences between the sender and receiver affect the odds of successful communication. These include:

  • Attitudes. How different are the attitudes between the sender and the receiver?
  • Information levels. Is the sender or receiver significantly more informed than the other?
  • Communication skills. The greater the difference in the sender’s and the receiver’s communication skills, the less likely it is that communication will be successful.
  • Social systems. If the sender and receiver do not share a similar social system, successful communication is more of a challenge. Social systems provide a context or background for interpreting messages.
  • Sensory channel. The five senses (i.e., seeing, hearing, touching, tasting, and smelling) are the basic channels of communication. Using more channels increases the chance that communication will be successful. For example, does the person attending a meeting via a conference call have the same communication advantages as on-site attendees?
  • Differences in communication styles often create an extra challenge. General behavior patterns of our personalities form our personal communication styles. These patterns can be productive, nonproductive, or even counterproductive, and the interplay of these styles affects communication effectiveness.
  • Differences in previous experiences create a filter through which we hear the world. Inference, judgment, and generalization can become as significant as facts. The statement “There is a dog in the room” will be heard differently by someone who has been bitten than by someone with a well-loved pet.
  • Cultural differences also impact how a message is sent as well as the manner in which a message is received. To be effective, you need to be sensitive to cultural differences without stereotyping.

    Source: The Federal Emergency Management Agency

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