Frame of Reference

Briefly, we should understand the value and importance of these three concepts before we dive deeply into the waters of the communication process. For this, I recommend that you recall the concept of frame of reference outlined in our textbook, described on page five.

A lot of students get the gist of this concept, but struggle with the more refined details. Students understand that frame of reference is so vital to communication that it affects every aspect, but don’t quite grasp that it’s made up of more than our experiences. It’s our worldview, which is shaped by every component of life: where we were born, our parents, our interactions, our ideology, our religion, our race and ethnicity, where we went to school, what we learned, how we study, etc.

It may be more helpful to think of frame of reference as a sedimentary conglomerated rock, like the one below.

Notice how you can a variety of components that make up this rock. Some parts are bigger, some smaller, and others microscopic. And yet, without all the parts together, the rock would be different. So it is with frame of reference: each part of our life (experiences, understandings, genetic and sociological components, etc.) helps make us who we are.

The key component of this is that our frame of reference primarily shapes the way we encode and decode messages. We’ll discuss this more in our next post.

To be clear: start with frame of reference, then build your understanding from there for every other component of the communication process.


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