The Macquarie Dictionary Defines Communication: Therapeutic Relationships Coursework, UQ, Australia

University University Of Queensland (UQ)
Subject Therapeutic Relationships

A Definition of Communication

The Macquarie Dictionary defines communication as “the imparting or interchange of thoughts, opinions or information by speech, writing, or signs”. Between its ancient Latin and Greek origins and now, the term “communication” had changed to mean the transfer of something. The definition “interchange or exchange” indicates reciprocity between those communicating.

We get a hint of the kinds of reciprocity involved from the dictionary: speech, writing, and signs. These are known as “codes.” Speech and writing are obvious codes. Signs include not only visual images but also other nonverbal codes. Body language – including subtle cues of stance, gesture, and expression – is a communication code that can completely alter the overt meaning of our words.

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At its most extreme, the “interchange or exchange” meaning within communication has been interpreted as the need for a wordless meeting of minds, a communion of inner experience. This places an impossible burden on us as communicators, for we can never know another person perfectly. Instead, we must:

  • Work with our incomplete knowledge;
  • Use words despite their potential for being misunderstood in different ways;
  • Interpret signs using filters based on our own values and experience; and
  • Anticipate the filters used by others.

This aspect of communication points to another dimension of meaning within the concept: that of relationship.

The Basic Theory of Communication

In its essence, the basic theory of communication is about messages being sent and received. This theory advocates that certain elements must be present in the
communication process:

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Interpret the diagram above as follows:

  • The sender sends a message in any medium to the receiver.
  • The receiver receives the message, and, by sending feedback, lets the sender know whether the message was interpreted correctly.

A very simple example is a case of a young man telling his girlfriend she looks attractive. She smiles. In this example, the sender is the young man, the message is that she looks attractive, the medium is verbal, the receiver is the girlfriend, and the feedback is the girl’s smile which tells the young man that his message was interpreted correctly.

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