Basic Definition of Human Communication

Basic Definition of Human Communication

Human communication is a broad topic that opens itself to many different interpretations. The American Heritage dictionary of the English Language defines “communication” as “the exchange of thoughts, messages, or information, as by speech, signals, writing, or behavior” (Communication, 2011, p. 373).

The first half of that definition refers to what is being communicated between two or more entities. For example, a man telling a story to his wife about his work day or a child telling his or her parent how he or she feels about vegetables gives specific information about events and emotions to the intended recipient. This is key in the field of human communication because one must ensure that the message one is attempting to send is clear.

This is where the second half of the definition demonstrates importance. How one conveys a message is more critical than the content of the message. If the method of communication is faulty or the execution is poor, then the intended message may not be received. For instance, if at a concert and one attempts to ask a friend “Where’s the bathroom?” while the band is playing, he or she may not be able to hear and thus have to resort to guessing after several failed attempts. However, this does not mean that one must rely solely on wits and navigational skills to find the restroom; there are other ways to communicate the message.

Possibly the most significant form of communication is body language. One can convey a lot more information in much smaller amounts of time just based on posturing, hand gestures, eye contact, etc. Body language often gets forgotten or overlooked when thinking about how to define communication because the majority of it is instinctual or learned so early on that it has become second nature, but there are still situations that would be unmanageable without it (Sinke, Kret, & de Gelder, 2012). In the previous example of needing to find the bathroom at a concert, the message would be conveyed a lot clearer with the help of body language. The friend may not be able to hear, but if one were to use a hand gesture to signal bodily distress, and a facial gesture to signal confusion, the individual would have a much easier time interpreting the question than when verbal communication was the only form used.

Human communication is evident in every aspect of our lives. From what we are trying to say to how we go about relaying it, it is our responsibility to make sure the intended message gets to the receiver. With any break in that chain, we would lose the ability to communicate and therefore our functionality as a society.




Communication. (2011). In The American Heritage dictionary of the English Language (5th ed.).

Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company

Sinke, C. A., Kret, M. E., & de Gelder, B. (2012). Body language: Embodied perception of

            emotion. In B. Berglund, G. B. Rossi, J. T. Townsend, L. R. Pendrill, B. Berglund, G. B.

Rossi, J.T. Townsend, L. R. Pendrill (Eds.), Measurement with persons: Theory, methods,

and implementation areas (pp. 335-352). New York, NY, US: Psychology Press.




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