Message Components

In communication, the message carries the components related to its sender via language. The message is created by the sender based on how they prioritize the components mentioned in the previous post. The idea, as the core of the message, generally becomes the center to which other components are selectively added, however, this is not always the case. The design of the message strongly depends on the sender’s idiosyncratic properties – unique personal characteristics. Essentially, messages are closely connected to their sender. This is not the case when the message is only delivered by someone, making them the messenger rather than the sender. In this post, we will look at how a message can take different forms based on the sender’s unique characteristics. These characteristics deeply affect and shape the language of the message. The components determine the message interactivity.

Sender’s view of the world

Naturally every individual has their own way of seeing the world, but it is as important to be able to see the world through other people’s eyes as well. Communication fundamentally involves one or more people being addressed by the sender for a purpose. Therefore, one way of measuring the success of a communication is the degree to which a message is able to connect the parties involved. In other words, how successful is the message at building a common ground by connecting the audience and the sender through similarities so that it can encourage the audience to become open to the differences and eventually, the sender’s intended conclusion.

The continuum

If we consider a continuum where one end indicates a person completely centered around their view of the world and the other end representing those who only see the world through other people’s eyes, we arrive at innumerable possibilities of approaching communication. Naturally, there are two extremes. Let us first see how the extremes look like and then move to other options.

The Extremes

A message that completely ignores either the sender or the receiver, fails to connect them at a meaningful level. If the sender does not attempt to understand the receiver and their views, their message is more likely to become one-sided, only containing the information the sender considers valuable. In such a case, the message shouts ‘me’ while completely ignoring the audience. It is as if the audience does not exist, or exist for the sole benefit of the sender. Naturally the receiver of such a message becomes reluctant and distant.

In the opposite situation, where the message is only concerned with the audience and what they want, lacks character. It means that all the components that can make the message meaningful through sender’s motive, beliefs, and feelings are missing. Such a message may appeal to the receiver, but it fails to influence them. Similarly, it is as if the sender’s existence as an individual is ignored. It is crucial to know that the connection between the receiver and the sender in a communication are made through their similarities in ideas, values, and feelings, all of which are communicated within the message. Common grounds lead to connection, and connection leads to communication.

Moderating the viewpoint

A moderate approach falls between the two extremes explained above. The effectiveness of a message depends on the degree of the inclusion of both sender and receiver’s characteristics. An effective approach to communication entails tailoring the message in a way that represents the sender as an individual, while it manages to connect with the audience, taking into account their characteristics and preferences. The existence of the characteristics of the sender build a foundation upon which similarities are established and engagement is achieved. This foundation allows both parties to make considerations and compromises when it comes to differences or conflicts. The language of the message can be selected in a way that suits the approach.

Degree of Interactivity

Messages can be one-sided or interactive, depending on the sender’s preference and the nature of the communication. A one-sided message usually involves informing the audience about something rather than expecting instant feedback.  In a monologue, there is only one sender sender and an audience. An interactive message, on the other hand, invites receivers to react or respond to the message. In a conversation, interactivity is a key component. It means both parties become the sender and the receiver at different times. Every reaction or response may affect the subsequent messages.

Messages in One-sided Communication

It is obvious that when one person –or a few- address a large number of people, it is more reasonable to have a one-sided message. Board meeting reports are one example. The information is only presented, but cannot be changed based on the receivers’ reactions to the information. A one-sided message informs its audience that the audience reaction or response does not affect the message during communication. However, in the same situation, after the information is received, board members discuss future plans and actions. In this case, communication involves interaction. Parties have to change roles between sender and receivers of messages, while analyzing the information they receive at the moment. Keep in mind that even in one-sided messages audience reactions are important and considered before the communication.

Messages in Interactive Communication

Interactive communication means messages become reactions or response to previous information or provide new information to the table. Unlike one-sided messages, interactive messages involve turn-taking mechanisms. At each point in time, one person takes the ground to communicate their message, therefore, others become receivers. Then, another person signals to inform others they intend to take the ground, changing roles to sender. Signals may be in the form of gestures or even disruptions of another message. Interactive communications are more complicated, and require parties to follow certain rules. Otherwise, communication may turn to arguments and conflicts. (I will explain more about interactive communication in another post.)

To see an example and take a break from reading, grab a coffee and watch how the speaker interacts with the audience in the following Ted talk:

Degree of Formality

The language of the message indicates the nature of the relationship between the sender and the receiver. The degree of formality of the language used to communicate informs the audience about boundaries. A formal message, by nature, signals the receiver to stick to the subject of the discussion and avoid changing subject to irrelevant ones. It also informs them that the acceptable register is a formal one in this communication. Therefore, in an annual meeting, communication is a formal one and an agenda determines what is discussed during the meeting. After the meeting, however, when formal language is used in a conversation, it means that the receiver has to keep the conversation professional, limiting them to the topics acceptable based on the relationship between the receiver and the sender.

On the contrary, a more casual or friendly manner invites the receiver to feel more comfortable and at ease. Weekly meeting with colleagues are not as informal as annual meetings. In such cases, making jokes or slightly deviating from the subject is acceptable. Nonetheless, in a casual meeting people still stick to a degree of formality even though it is not explicitly established. Similarly, a boss and a staff member may call each other by first names, but the invisible rules still regulate the way they address each other and the topics they discuss. The degree of the formality of the message is distinguished by the words and the structures used by the sender. In this case, language components such as vocabulary and grammar become important. We can see the difference in the diversity of language elements used in Business English.

Degree of objectivity

Objective Messages

An objective message avoids personalization based on the sender’s characteristics or preferences. For example, a financial report rarely includes the financial director’s feelings about the information in the report. The financial report is created based on a set of standards. The information provided in the report cannot be customized to make the CEO or the board happy either. Objectivity is of utmost importance in creating business reports. Auditors are responsible for evaluating the financial performance of a business. They follow the rules and regulations, careful about the way they present their opinion. Lawyers are the same. A slight deviation from rules and standards may cause legal issues in both cases.

Although sender’s personal opinions, feelings, and beliefs are not directly related to the message they present, these traits implicitly exist within their work. Their degree of commitment, honesty, and sense of responsibility causes people to trust them with their work. An objective report can be concise, but the quality of the work and punctuality go back to the sender’s traits. Work ethic and job satisfaction – to an extent – are communicated implicitly through the quality of work a person delivers. This is different from objectivity.

Subjective Communication

A subjective message, contrary to objective ones, contains personal experiences, opinions, feelings, and values. In other words, sender’s traits are inseparable parts of the message. Among message components, subjectivity decides the degree of the sender’s freedom to include their views into the message. Many Ted talks are such examples, drawing on personal experiences and stories. They connect to the audience by sharing opinions and feelings, beliefs and ideas. The audience react to them based on the degree to which they can connect.

There are also other talks that integrate both objective and subjective approach. Proving scientific information and adding personal views and opinions. Nobel Laureate Frances Arnold gave a beautiful presentation about the findings that brought her the Nobel Prize in her field, chemical engineering (you can find the video on you tube). Even business reports are followed by analyses and also suggestion for improvements. Business communication involves decision making based on objective data while implementing various strategies that result from managers or staff opinions.

The quality of a message depends on the degree to which it manages to connect the sender and the receiver. Other message components such as the degree of interactivity, formality and subjectivity help successfully communicate that message. Communicating messages is in fact, making connections between various traits of the sender and the receiver, either by focusing on existing common characteristics or through creating new ones. In the next post (the last one in communication components), we will look at the receiver’s role in communication.

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