Characteristics of Human Communication

The Self

  • According to Dr. Sue DeWine, a characteristic of human communication is that it ultimately begins with the self. Each person is capable of communicating with others, and without each person's initiative no communication can occur. Human communication is colored by personal feelings, the context in which the conversation is occurring, social status and culture. A content, Indian man from a high social caste would express himself differently than an angry Indian man from society’s lowest social rungs. Yet for each of them, their ability to communicate begins internally.


  • Another characteristic of human communication is its irreversibility. While, like an artist’s drawing, speech is a personal and creative outlet, it cannot be erased after the fact. This ongoing and reciprocal process creates bonds and emotional responses in other humans. A poor choice of words can cause hurt feelings, distrust and conflict.

Social Context

  • Human communication occurs in some sort of social context, whether it is interpersonal between just two people or group communication among many more. It involves creating and responding to messages, and is always in some way reciprocal. Modern society has also introduced the concept of mass communication through mediums such as television, radio, the Internet and literature. Human communication is a natural and vital part of societies. Without communication, societies could not function as we know them. According to Professor Chad Edwards of Western Michigan University, communication is our link to the world and how we express ourselves and influence others.

The Body Speaks a Thousand Words

  • There is no such thing as being completely non-communicative, apart perhaps from being in a comatose state. Words are not the only way in which humans communicate. Nonverbal cues are universal to all cultures and include things such as body motions, hand movements, gestures, purposeful silence, and eye contact and movement. We often use body language alongside verbal communication to express something.

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