Introduction to the Communication Cycle

Moving parts break down. The more moving parts that are components of a process, the greater the chances are the process will break down, with increased frequency.

Sometimes, the parts of a process are not tangible, as in the process of communication. Communication is, however, a rather complicated process. It is also something we rarely consider. Sadly, because of this lack of consideration, we needlessly cause the process to breakdown on an all-too-frequent basis.

Let’s take a look at the moving parts involved in the act of communicating something in our thoughts to someone else. The process looks something like this:

The Communication Cycle


Within each step of the process, there are endless combinations of components working together which produce a particular result. This result then triggers the next step in the communication process with its own set of variables working to produce a particular result. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. For example, when you have your thought or feeling, the following influences are hard at work within you and play an important part in the outcome of the step in the process, therefore the process as a whole, whether you realize it or not:

Influencers of the Communication Cycle


For each stage in the communication process, these factors are active, moving components. Add to this the same active, moving components for the other person (or persons) in the communication process and you have stacks of layered, moving parts just itching to breakdown.

 We are, however, not finished.

Added to the layers of moving parts, you have external influences and the particular circumstances surrounding the particular act of communicating. An example of these external influences (again, there are infinite combinations of factors available) might look like this:

External Influencers of the Communication Cycle


Oftentimes, each external influence has multiple gears churning to produce complex influences on the other sets of churning gears along each step of the process.  With layers upon layers of spinning, interconnected wheels, each of which influences the others, it is clear to see why communications regularly and readily break down. 

In other words, the sum of your motives, assumptions, and emotional state, multiplied by the sum of the other party’s motives, assumptions, and emotional state, all multiplied by external circumstances determines how smoothly the communication process runs and to what degree, if any, the process breaks down. If all parties’ motives, assumptions, and emotional states are healthy, positive, and similar – and the external influences are not placing undue stress on the situation – then the communication process runs smoothly, clearly, and efficiently.

If, on the other hand, one party has (or all parties have) ulterior motives due to poor past experiences in this type of situation, thereby placing them in a compromised emotional state with certain assumptions about how things will proceed or prejudices against the other parties, combined with external factors that are stressing the communication excessively, then the communication process is broken from the beginning and gets worse through each successive step.

Knowing the basics of the communication process and the various factors that cause it to collapse gives you a well-stocked toolbox to rely on in order to keep your communications in top working condition. The following questions will help clear the gunk from the mechanisms of communication:

  • Have you kept fully aware of your motives for communicating, feelings about what you are communicating, and assumptions about the people involved or the situation?
  • Do you have a reasonable grasp on the motives, feelings, and assumptions of the other people involved in the specific communication process?
  • Do you understand what all of the external influences are and the effects that these external influences have on the communication process? 
  • If you answered, “No” to any of the above questions, how do you propose gaining the understanding you need to communicate effectively?
  • Once you can answer, “Yes” to all the questions above, what do see as the most effective way to communicate your message in light of what you know? 

Spend time thinking about how you can eliminate or correct misconceptions, redirect ulterior motives, alleviate concerns and stress, and set limits on the control that external influences have on the communication of your message? The more familiar you become with the components and potential weak points in the communication process, the more adept you will become in keeping these areas cleaned and strengthened to prevent breakdowns and sticking points. Although this can be arduous in the beginning, the more you do it, the more it becomes like breathing. Like any fitness regimen, the more you partake, the better you feel. The results are well worth it.

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