0708- Concepts and Theory of Communication

Background reading for Year 2 medical students for PPSD session on 15th August 2007 by Professor Omar Hasan Kasule, Sr.


Communication is transfer of information from the communicator to the recipient. It may be conscious or unconscious. It may be verbal (oral or written) or non-verbal (body language & appearance). Its basic elements are: the sender, the message, the medium, the receiver, and feedback. Its functions are: informing, controlling, expressing emotions, and motivating. Communication channels may be personal static such as a letter, impersonal static such as flyers, direct interaction such as face-to-face discussions, and indirect interaction such as a telephone conversation. Any communication is not received as it is transmitted. It is perceived instead. Perception is organizing and interpreting incoming information. Perception is selective being influenced by environment, background knowledge, and background attitudes. Thus the same information may elicit different perceptions in different people.



A communication process starts with conceptualization of the ideas to be communicated. The ideas or messages are then encoded (put in a transmissible form). The message is then transmitted and is received. The receiver decodes or interprets the message before understanding it and taking action on it. The process is completed by feedback from the recipient to the sender. Communication is a circular process involving a feed-back loop. Every communicator must monitor the feed-back to make sure that the communication process is effective.



The terminology used restricts and determines the limits of the thought process. The language used varies by intimacy, professional circles, age group, and gender. It is a great mistake to communicate with everybody in the same way forgetting their special background and peculiarities. Communication must be precise to be useful. Precision indicates that the mind is active and is dynamic and the communicator has clear objectives.



Believable communication is emotionally honest, is evidence-based, it concentrates on facts, and it avoids speculative talk. It is focused and has an objective. Pleasant communication has more impact and used good words, good disposition, friendly greetings, and a warm voice. A sense of humor helps communication. You must however know where to draw the line. Too much or inappropriate humor indicates lack of seriousness and is negative.



Your communication style reflects your basic personality. Be genuine and be yourself. A good word is charity. Use polite words even with people who have done wrong to you. Always have a personal touch. Monitoring feed-back is important because communication is a 2-way process. Understanding the target of communication improves the communication process. Background knowledge, attitudes, and environment affect the way the recipient perceives and interprets information.



The following are common barriers to effective communication: prejudgment before communication, differences between communicators (self-image, status, roles, personality, cognitive ability, physical situation, social status, culture, vocabulary, language), distractions, emotional resistance to being on the receiving end, time constraints, poor listening, poor speech, bad timing, and unsuitable circumstances. Other causes of communication failure are: multiple meanings of words, information overlord, verbosity, value judgment, and filtering.



1.      Describe the subjective interpretation of symbols in communication

  1. What is the difference between conscious and unconscious communication

3.      Describe the importance of communication in medical practice

4.      Explain the purpose of selective communication

5.      How do questions help in communication

6.      Explain the irreversibility of communication and its implications

7.      What is information overload

8.      How does personality affect the effectiveness of communication

Explain the degradation of information during transmission from person to person

ŠProfessor Omar Hasan Kasule, Sr. August 2007