Chapter 1 – Introduction to Communication and Communication Theory in Nursing

Models of Communication

Communication is a complex process, and it is sometimes difficult to determine where or with whom a communication encounter starts and ends. Models of communication simplify the process by providing a visual representation of the various aspects of a communication encounter. Some models explain communication in more detail than others, but even the most complex model cannot recreate what we experience in any given moment of a communication encounter.

Models still serve a valuable purpose because they define communication and allow you to see specific concepts and steps within the process of communication. Models give rise to ideas or nuances that you may not have considered. When you become aware of how communication functions, you can think through your communication encounters more deliberately, which can help you better prepare for future communication and learn from your previous communication.

The three models of communication discussed in this chapter are:

  1. The Transmission Model
  2. The Interaction Model
  3. The Transaction Model

Although these models of communication differ, they contain some common elements. The first two models, the Transmission Model and the Interaction Model, include the following parts: participants, messages, encoding, decoding, and channels. In communication models, participants are the senders and/or receivers of messages in a communication encounter. The message is the verbal and nonverbal content being conveyed from sender to receiver. For example, when you say “Hello!” to your friend, you are sending a message of greeting that will be received by your friend.

The internal cognitive process that allows participants to send, receive, and understand messages includes the processes of encoding and decoding.

  • Encoding is the process of turning thoughts into communication. For example, as a sender, you have to decide how to encode your thoughts/message in a way that will convey your message such that the receiver will understand.
  • Decoding is the process of turning a communication message into thoughts. For example, you may realize you’re hungry and encode the following message to send to your roommate: “I’m hungry. Do you want to get pizza tonight?” As your roommate receives the message, they decode your communication and turn it back into thoughts in order to make meaning out of it.

Of course, you don’t just communicate verbally – you have various options, or channels, for communication. Encoded messages are sent through a channel, or a sensory route on which a message travels, to the receiver for decoding. While communication can be sent and received using any sensory route (sight, smell, touch, taste, or sound), most communication occurs through visual (sight) and/or auditory (sound) channels. If your roommate has headphones on and is engrossed in a video game, you may need to get their attention by waving your hands before you can ask them about ordering Thai food.

Now, let’s examine the three models of communication discussed in this chapter: Transmission, Interaction, and Transaction Models.

Activity: Check Your Understanding


Attribution Statement

With editorial changes, adapted from:

Communication in the Real World: An Introduction to Communication Studies by University of Minnesota. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.



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Introduction to Communication in Nursing Copyright © 2020 by Edited by Jennifer Lapum; Oona St-Amant; Michelle Hughes; and Joy Garmaise-Yee is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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