The Principles of Good Communication

A boy and girl sharing the same thought.
Every message must have a sender and a receiver.

All communication that is not dialogue with oneself requires a sender, a receiver, and a message.  It is not enough to send the message; the message must also be received and understood.  In effect, the sender must create in the mind of the receiver the thought or feeling that is in the mind of the sender.  This is called understanding.  In addition, the sender must receive feedback from the receiver, else he cannot know that his or her message was received and understood.  Once the feedback is received the sender should acknowledge its receipt.  This  acknowledgment is a matter of good protocol.  For, it sets the stage for continued or future communication.  It indicates, whether a new message will be forthcoming or whether the channel of communication opened by the salutation (not discussed above) should be closed. Ignoring feedback and protocol is the result of many a failed communication.  In everyday conversation the feedback given by the receiver often contains a new message sent by the receiver (new sender) to the sender (new receiver) and the flow of the communication is reversed.

The first three aforementioned elements of the communication — namely, sender, receiver, and message form the basis of the grammatical concept of person.  Of the four languages that I know well, and the several of which I have at least partial understanding, the notion of person is crucial to them all.1

The communication channel is the medium through which the communication takes place.  It can be the air that two people breath when standing face-to-face or a fiber-optic cable through which digital information is passed.  Important is that all communication passes through a channel of some sort, and that the channel selected to send and receive one’s messages can greatly effect the outcome of the communication.

An image of various technologies used for communication.
Selecting the proper channel is an important part of good communication.

Format is still another important element of communication that effects the outcome of the message, but is itself not the message.2 Some formats are better suited for some channels than others, and some channels insist on a unique format.  Format is essential to the proper use of social register, and if properly chosen, varies with the motivation and purpose of the communication.  Format, like feedback and acknowledgement, are related to good protocol — the method by which we establish and disestablish the conditions for sending and receiving messages through a specific channel.

Other than the notion of person already mentioned you may be asking yourself what any of this has to do with the learning of a second language.  If so, you might also ask yourself what the primary reason for the learning of a second-language might be, if it is not improved communication.  What good is it, then, to learn the grammatical rules and vocabulary of another’s language, if the message between you and that other is communicated ineffectively?  It is for this reason that good communication skills are also an important focal point of Grammar Captive.

  1. An entire video lesson will be devoted to this concept as it applies to language in general and the English language in specific.
  2. There are those who would claim that the medium, used in the broadest sense of the term including both the channel and format, is the message, but it is a message very different from the one being sent and hopefully delivered and understood here. Marshall McLuhan. 1964. Chapter 1, The Medium Is the Message, Understanding Media: The Extension of Man <online document>