Communicating a Message to the Receiver
Communicating a message to a receiver affects the structure of the message and its content. In the last post, we went through the components affecting the language and the information provided in the message. We also established the role of the message as the connector of the sender and the receiver. In this post, we focus on the receiver as the communication addressee. The following characteristics belong to the receiver of the message in a communication. They affect the communication, the message, and the sender’s freedom to express or address personal traits. In other words, they necessitate certain modification to various elements in communication.
The receivers of a message can be as large as the general population or as specific as a single person. Addressing a large number of people is different from communicating a message to one or a few people. However, neither is easier than the other to address. Depending on the subject and the purpose of communication, addressing the each comes with certain advantages as well as difficulties.
Addressing a group
Addressing an audience large in number affects the type of the address in terms of interactivity. As discussed in the previous post, a one-sided message better suits one-to-many communications. A one-sided message is one in which the sender is the main communicator of the message during communication, and the receivers seldom have a chance to participate and share their message in reaction to the information they receive. This does not mean that receivers are ignored.
In this case, sender is responsible to include the receivers in the communication through certain modifications to their message and manner of delivery. The sender has the responsibility to learn about their audience, understand them, and incorporate their characteristics within their message implicitly or explicitly. In addition, the sender has to carefully observe the audience and analyze their reactions to the communication process as they deliver the message. Despite the difficulty, this can be rewarding since it enables the speaker to modify the manner of delivery of the message to attract and maintain the attention of their receivers.
Addressing an individual
While the difficulty of addressing a large audience lies in the increase of sender responsibilities, communicating a message to an individual requires knowledge and understanding of their personal characteristics. This does not means that we have to even get to know the waiter when we want to buy some coffee, but it does become important when communicating meaningful information for a certain purpose. The more the differences between sender and receiver’s traits, the more sensitive the communication becomes. Sometimes even innocent jokes may lead to serious conflicts, especially when cultural differences exist. That is why simple small talks with a colleague about a certain subject may not be wise, while the same talk with another one may create bonds.
Every person creates their identity through a careful selection and combination of certain traits. Their identity may be strongly connected to certain personal beliefs or standards that come from their community. These identities may cause people to become close or provide barriers to communication. I am mesmerized by identity economics, however, since it is out of the scope of this post, I will address it separately and recommend further research on the subject in your free time. George Akerlof and Rachel Kranton’s book Identity Economics: How Our Identities Shape Our Work, Wages, and Well-being is a good start.
Addressing the staff in an international organization requires certain considerations that may not be necessary in a staff meeting with people from the same city. Common characteristics of receivers of a message tend to set the tone of the communication. A successful delivery of a message may depend on sender’s traits and abilities, but a successful communication necessitates the consideration of receivers’ traits. Knowledge of demographics and other common characteristics allows the sender to tailor the message to their audience and increase the success of communication.
In addition, consideration of receiver traits signals their importance to the sender. Since the audience are the receivers of the message, it is only fair that their existence be valued and appreciated. An attempt by the sender to take into account receiver needs and interests elicits a positive reaction as well as a willingness to be as open to the sender’s message. The more the sender understands and knows their addressees, the better they can influence them. Keeping an open mind starts from the sender and is reciprocated by the receiver. Acceptability leads to keeping an open mind to the message.
Subject of communication
The subject of communication can be a personal or general one, affecting the manner of communication. The subject can be personal to the sender, personal to receiver, or a general one.
Personal to sender
The subject of communication heavily depends on the relationship between the sender and the receiver. Sometimes the receiver of the information determines whether sharing personal information is acceptable. In more formal relationships, discussing personal issues or opinions are considered irrelevant and inappropriate. Unless invited to do so, people usually restrain from discussing personal matters when the relationship is a rather formal one. For this reason, usually bosses tend to ask their staff if they are having personal problems, giving them permission to share personal information. The staff member may accept the invitation or refuse to share information. Staff members may also initiate such talks if the office mood allows it. Otherwise, such discussion may be avoided. Such permissions have been given in the case of close colleagues.
Personal to receiver
Addressing issues can become tricky when the receiver of the message is the subject of communication. Criticisms and suggestions are difficult subjects for this very reason. If the issue is a serious one, then communication becomes necessary. However, due to the fact that personal characteristics become the subject of discussion, the degree of success in reaching a solution depends on the addressee’s receptiveness. Nonetheless, the sender of the message can communicate their intentions and reasons to clarify the situation. HR departments bear the responsibility to communicate matter which may be personal to employees, even though friendly relationships may not exist. People skills are crucial to such conversations.
General topics are perhaps the easiest ones to approach. They allow a degree of freedom that enables people to connect over subjects without having to tiptoe them. Although differences of opinion may exist, they are more likely to be easily contemplated or accepted in compare to more personal or controversial ones. Controversial topics are those that involve too many differences of opinion. Finding common grounds in general topics is much easier. Therefore, they make a suitable starter for a more controversial subject.
Similar to the sender, the receiver also holds certain ideas, opinions, values, and feelings. The degree to which the sender is able to create common grounds between the audience and themselves through these characteristics can increase the success of communication. The larger the difference between these traits, the more alien the message becomes, and the more skeptical the audience. Bear in mind that this is not an absolute notion. A completely different opinion can be accepted by the audience as well. However, it highly depends on the argument delivered by the sender. This depends on the sender’s choice of reasoning.
Communication is initiated with a purpose in mind. The sender’s intention determines the reactions that can signal a commutation success. In general, if the sender expects and invites a response to the message, the response can indicate the degree to which communication has been successful. It also gives the sender a chance to provide more information or make certain modifications to their message.
In some cases, the sender expects certain reactions from the audience rather than a response. Various clues such as facial expressions can indicate how the receiver feels about the message. Evaluation of communication success can be difficult or impossible in some cases. If the sender’s intention of communication is to encourage contemplation or raise awareness, measuring the degree of success becomes quite difficult unless questionnaires or surveys are provided. To the staff or even managers, a nod and smile from a serious CEO could equal a standing ovation.
It is important to note that perceptions play a significant role in communication. The sender has an opportunity to affect the way receivers perceive them as an individual through the words they utter and the message they communicate. A smart communicator uses this opportunity to send more information than the main subject of communication. Both directly and in an indirect manner, the sender can send signals using every word and sentence, posture and look, to express themselves and their understanding of their addressees, and elicit a response. The receivers are an integral part of communication and every step needs to be taken with the audience in mind.