I Talk Therefore I Am
We enter persuasion through communication, so let’s get agreement on basic terms and how we’ll use them. Here’s the main point: People create, manipulate, and use symbols to accomplish goals.
People use tools. People use tools to achieve goals. Symbols are tools. People use symbols to accomplish goals. Communication accomplishes goals. Persuasion has as its communication goal changing the receiver. Reflect on this just a moment.
Now . . .
Definition of Communication
Communication is the process of stimulating meaning through the use of verbal and nonverbal messages.
There are three key elements in this definition: Process, meaning, and message.
Here’s a thesaurus list of synonyms for each.
Process: procedure, development, course of action, method, route, practice.
Note that “process” is a verb of action. Somebody does something. That “doing something” involves meaning and messages.
Meaning: sense, connotation, denotation, import, gist, significance, experience.
Note that “meaning” is a subjective experience in our lives. Meaning happens in the cognitorium, in the mind, in the head. Our meaning does not have a specific physical referent like a body organ or even a discrete location in the brain. Meaning is our private response to the world.
Message: code, letter, note, symbol.
Note that “messages” contain coded meaning and allow us to express or convey the meanings within us. Messages require rules like syntax and semantics. Messages can be verbal like languages or nonverbal like gestures.
And while we’re at it, let’s look in the dictionary for words like verbal, nonverbal, oral, and language because I sometimes get them confused. Verbal means communication with words. Nonverbal means communication without words. Oral means spoken. Language means using words under rules. Thus, someone can be verbal and either write or speak just so long as words are involved. Nonverbal communication or the “language of the body” can reach the same outcomes as verbal communication but without words alone. Oral always requires words and speech and is not written. Language is words and the rules communicators use to convey meaning with one another in writing or speech.
Communication: the process of meaning making through messages. This definition implies other components.
Source: the originator of the message. The encoder. The goal-setter.
Message: coded meaning. Symbols. Representation of meaning.
Channel: means of transmitting message. Five senses, sight and sound primarily, but also touch, smell, and taste useful, too.
Receiver: the target of source message. The decoder. A part of the goal.
Feedback: receiver response to source messages. Also, receiver clarification of particular message.
Noise: Anything that interferes with communication. Physical or psychological.
Encoding-Decoding: Process of translating meaning into code. Sources eN-code. Receivers De-code.
Goals: Purpose to be accomplished. Creates drive. Directs action. Inform, relate, and persuade.
Models of Communication
If we take the components of communication and put them in a Model they will be easier to remember and use.
With any process, you have to start somewhere. And even though it is a process, an organic mixture that is more than the sum of its parts, when you pick a place to start it provides a tone, a perspective, a philosophy that makes the process seem a little different compared to the tone or perspective you get from another starting point.
Consider the Model from a Source perspective. If you think this way, communication engulfs you and surrounds you. It emanates from you. You are the sun, the source of light that illuminates. Encoding is interesting and important while decoding is the other one’s problem. You set the goal. You drive the process.
Now, consider the Model from a Receiver perspective. Here, the receiver becomes the goal and is the object of energy and drive. You encode only after you understand how the other decodes. You succeed when the receiver succeeds, although, of course, you define that success.
This distinction between a Source orientation to communication and persuasion and a Receiver orientation to communication and persuasion is crucial. Persuasion is not about you, the Source.
Persuasion is about the Receiver.
I don’t care about the Source of persuasion and how good you look or sound or how clever, trendy, or wise your Message may be and which Channel you use bores me.
What did the Receiver do? Persuasion is about the Receiver or else it is about pride.
What did you learn? A definition of communication. Its components. A Model. Pride or Persuasion.