Communication Process Communication often times involves two people; a sender and a receiver. With law enforcement this can involve interpersonal communication between a citizen and an officer or between a detective and an officer; or it can be group communication in which parties of three of more are involved in communicating amongst each other. The communication process involves five of the following steps: Transmitting an idea, sending the idea through a medium, the receiver acquiring the message and decoding it, Understanding the message through decoding and then the last step providing feedback to the sender.
However many parties are present, communication exists of three main components: Verbal, Paraverbal and nonverbal messages. (Wallace, 2009) With the use of the communication process and the following three components we can clearly begin to understand the message of the sender. Verbal communication is the act of speaking or writing and the select word choice we use to get a message to the receiver. The general message one intends to get across such as a simple order from a higher level officer will reach the receiver and they begin to decode the message.
Depending on the word choice, it can either lead to misconception or be fully understood for its intentions. For example the sender may say something equivalent to Did you not read the crime report this morning? and the sender may decode this as the officer saying he failed to do his job simply due to the use of the word not. Now this may have been what the officer was saying but maybe it was not, perhaps he was saying it in a joking matter, thats why we must look into more components.
Paraverbal communication is the choice of words we choose mixed with the way in which we decide to use them or using them within a message. Literally two people could say the same exact sentence and each can add tone or infliction of the voice and it mean two different things. Going back to the original statement above, if the officer puts more tone around the word not than he is emphasizing the word and he is most likely using some sort of sarcasm. Next we can look at this sentence mixed with the last component: Nonverbal communication, in which no words are used but instead body language to express the idea or message.
If the officer is indeed trying to be sarcastic with the above message he may use a simple hand gesture or raise his eyebrows or even draw a smirk upon his face. These are all signs that the officer is being rude or sarcastic toward the other officer. However that simple sentence when evaluating or changing the different components can be decoded differently. Thats why we must evaluate each component then apply it to the message when we are the decoder. Taking all this in and understanding the components will help lead to a more professional decoding of messages.
Informal Vs. Formal Weather communication is oral or written there are two basic communication channels: Formal and Informal. Formal communication is usually one in which an organization follows a chain of command such as formal orders, directives and written memorandums. (Wallace, 2009) While formal communication is crucial to the flow of communication within a police organization it also has disadvantages. While it often times supports nurturing of the authority within an organization it can also lead to a larger amount of misconception.
This misconception is due to the fact that because formal communication can tend to be more time consuming and usually requires a written record of things said; this alone hinders the free flow of communication. The free flow of communication as a missing element makes it harder for effective communication as many will refuse to give a personal opinions or beliefs on certain matters. With formal communication there is a lot of change and often times change doesnt necessarily means everyone will agree.
Within a police organization laws are constantly changing and many officers may not agree with these laws but must abide by them. This is where formal communication has the advantage of uniformity so that it makes it easier to stop crime and protect citizens when all officers are on the same page despite any personal opinions or beliefs. This helps get the message across clear and concise between officers, sergeants and even citizens. Informal communication is more free flowing and arises outside of channels in the formal channels often known as the grape vine or even departmental gossip.
According to the Wallace Authors of Written and interpersonal communication: Methods for law enforcement (2009), informal communication arises due to the personal needs of members of an organization and can be good for divisions. While in the criminal justice field the accuracy of information is important it is still helpful to find information about crime through informal channels. One example that supports this idea is a scenario involving a missing person, and in a small town people may know or provide information about the whereabouts of an individual when last seen that could help with the investigation.
An officer may walk into a coffee shop and be approached by a citizen who tells him a unique fact about the person or a relationship they had with another person within the town. While there opinions may be just that, an opinion, it may also be valuable information within the event of the crime. As you can see information flows within an organization either formally or informally. It can flow upward, downward, lateral or diagonal. Meaning it can move up a chain from citizen to officer to Sherriff to sergeant or down ward in the reverse order.
It can even be lateral as it may be distributed to all sheriffs within a state then downward to officers within the cities and towns. The flow of communication can easily get misinterpreted as it moves through different channels within the criminal justice system. There are many more parties involved and when relaying information about a high profile criminal investigation and the facts surrounding the investigation important information can get shortened or left out.
Listening Vs. Hearing: Barriers in Communication Barriers in communication include emotional barriers, physical barriers, semantic barriers and ineffective listening. Lets look into a common mistake we all make while communicating: Emotional Involvement. Whether you are the sender or the receiver in a conversation many people encode messages and relate them to emotional experiences. (Wallace, 2009) Often times if an officer has low self-esteem due to past issues with communication, and he may hold back valuable information or postpone great ideas that he could bring forth to the department to help solve a crime.
The best way to overcome this is through peer support, often times there is a greater picture beyond just safety for pairing up police officers. If you work for a long time with the same partner you begin to break out of a shell and confide more to that officer which may enhance the way you communicate with everyone. The need to preserve our self-esteem is universal (Wallace, 2009) Physical barriers are common in the new world of technology this could easily be a computer crashing and no way to receive emails that are important.
The easiest fix for this is keeping software up to date and also having an IT department handy, as well as a backup for these malfunctions for when they do happen. Semantic barriers are a little more difficult because it relates back to how no two people have a universal agreement on the meaning of specific terms or words. One officer might say something to the effect of Ive had enough! and the word enough can easily be interpreted many ways as many of us fill in information that is not given.
In these circumstances its better to challenge the sender and ask What do you mean youve had enough. This will force the sender to clearly state what they are feeling so you can better interpret where the conversation is heading. One of the largest barriers in effective communication is the lack of understanding the difference between listening and hearing. This barrier of ineffective listening can easily be explained by the simple fact that as humans our thought speed is much greater than our speaking speed. When someone else is talking we can easily ignore the true message or day dream while not paying attention.
Yes, you are hearing but you are not listening or absorbing the persons valuable information which means youre more prone to misinterpretation. According to Network World, a site created to improve management skills, When it comes to the similarities between listening and hearing, the only one is you use your ears for both. After that, theyre very different. (Shaw, 2003) If a citizen has a complaint about another officer and if all the officer is doing is writing in a notepad, providing little input, the citizen will be able to sense this bad vibe and more than likely feel offended.
While maybe the officer is able to hear them they are not listening to the concern in there voice or even finding a way to make up to the citizen for the problem they had with one of their co-workers. In the police world there are already plenty of reasons citizens dont confide in policemen and women, some even resenting them, we cannot add another reason to that list. In this situation one must listen to the concern and resolve and reassure the citizen to help build up the trust we may have lost.
To improve your listening skills it is suggested to repeat back what the citizen may have said that way they know you are attentive and are taking into consideration what they said. (Shaw, 2003) Also giving yourself time to work through and decode a citizens information in these scenarios will be help for you to make the most appropriate response making the flow of conversation a more successful one for both parties. Summary While the list of communication barriers is much longer, there is no improvement that doesnt help the matter. Communication is a learned process which also means it can be a changed process.
Whether it is learning the difference between informal and formal channels and the way we should respond in each channel to fighting emotional, physical, or semantic barriers, there is a solution to overcome these issues. As state above on the difference between listening and hearing time management is the largest improvement anyone could make in communication. Not rushing communication but instead taking time to analyze and assess the situation to get a better understand is the main ingredient in success to effective communication. We must all slow our thought process, and do as weve been told many times before: Think before you speak!