Communication and Deciphering Cries

Posted by Alina on Monday Jul 21, 2008 Under communication

Although mainly concerned with communication technology, the Shannon-Weaver model can be applied to human communication. There are six main components; a source, an encoder, a message, a channel, a decoder, and a receiver. Communication breakdown may occur at any point in this chain.
As an example, my latest challenge has been communication with a newborn. My son Henry (the source), mainly communicates through crying. He encodes his message via use of vocal cords, lungs, facial muscles, and often his limbs and trunk. This is the only way he can communicate at his age of a few weeks, so the message he sends out for hunger, is a slightly different cry and body language than one for a wet diaper, boredom, or fatigue. The hunger cry sounds like he’s saying “nah” and is usually preceded by smacking his lips or sucking on his fist. He also keeps his fists tight when he’s hungry and relaxes his hands once he has eaten. The fatigue/ exhaustion cry is best described as a “fourth gear”, inconsolable cry with a cough, which lasts about 1-2 minutes after which he falls into a deep sleep. During this cry, his whole body tends to straighten out completely, and once he falls asleep, he curls up. The channel he uses to send his message is vocal/auditory as well as tactile. The decoder in this case, I think is my increasing experience as well as knowledge I have gained from reading books on the subject, which is allowing me to differentiate between different cries and his various body gestures. Thus, I (the receiver) am now better able to understand his messages and quicker attend to his needs than in the first two weeks, when all cries seemed like a mystery and just made my husband and me nervous.

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