Communication cycle

February 02, 2020

According to psychologist Michael Argyle (1972), the communication cycle involves six phases:

  • The sender wants to send a message
  • The sender encodes the message
  • The message is sent
  • Receiver decodes the message
  • Receiver interprets the message
  • Receiver gives a feedback

What does this mean in practice? On one side there is someone, called sender, that wants to communicate something to someone. To do so, the sender encodes his communication as a message and sends it. On the other hand, one or more receivers decode and understand the communication by interpreting the received message. Last but not least, the receiver through a feedback demonstrates to the sender that he received the communication (for example, an action is taken, or a response message is encoded and sent back to the sender).

Capable managers must always be excellent communicators. Being able to communicate effectively is essential when playing a role of responsibility and, above all, when managing a work team is one of main duties. For example, a manager that is onboarding a new employee on his first day of work has the need to communicate a lot of new information to the new starter. If the manager does not use an effective communication style the main risk is that the employee is overwhelmed by an excessive quantity of notions and nothing is really understood. The manager, as sender of this communication, must take time to prepare and organise all the information he wants to transmit to the receiver, in this case the new starter. To prepare a properly encoded message for this scenario the sender can use a means that will allow the receiver to review the message multiple times so probably a written message works best in this situation. It can be an email if the message is personal and subjective, or it can be a web page dedicated to welcome and help newcomers if the team has an internal website where useful information is stored. On the other side the receiver needs time to properly decode the message and understand the details of it. In this case the manager can suggest the employee take time to review the information received, process it and ask questions if needed. The sender has to keep in mind that the receiver is probably stressed by the fact that he is starting a new job so it is better if a friendly and calm tone of voice is used in the message. As the last step of the communication cycle the manager needs feedback. To get it for example a face-to- face meeting can be organised the same week to verify the receiver had the time to decode the communication and the message was understood as expected by the sender. Thanks to the feedback received the manager, with the time, can get better at onboarding new starters. It could mean that the message is polished and improved based on the feedback given by different receivers.

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Written by Claudio Maccari . Passionate developer and former windsurfer. You can read more about me here