Webster's Dictionary defines a process as a "continuous series of changes taking place in a definite manner" (Webster's, 1997, p. 530). So is communication comprised of a series of changes or events that collectively capture the true meaning of the message we want to convey. It truly is a wonder that we are able to get our message across at all sometimes, given all of the opportunities for miscommunication that abound in the course of exchange of information. .
The process of communication on its face appears to be simple, but it is actually quite complicated. Adler and Elmhorst state that the process begins with "a sender [or encoder], the person who transmits a message" (p. 5). The sender's message is intended to elicit a response from a receiver, or the person who is supposed to receive the message. However, messages can convey information that is both deliberate and unintentional; for example, a manager may be abrupt while giving a subordinate feedback because he is late for a meeting, and consequently the manager's feedback is construed as negative. Thus, it is incumbent upon the sender to develop a sense of awareness with regard to what is said and how it is presented. The sender has a responsibility to "choose certain words or nonverbal methods to send an intentional message" because "the words a communicator chooses to deliver a message can make a tremendous difference in how that message is received" (p. 6). The person receiving the message (the decoder) attaches meaning not only to the words that the message conveys, but also to the nonverbal cues that may or may not be intentional; as a result, "there is no guarantee that [the message] will be understood as the sender intended it to be" (p. 6). The decoder's response, or feedback, to the sender is based on the decoder's interpretation of the sender's message, whether deliberate, unintentional or otherwise.
One interesting characteristic of the communication process is that communication is irreversible.