What is the communication cycle?

When a person uses verbal language to interact with another person, a communication cycle is initiated. The mere use of language does not constitute communication. If a person was speaking nonstop in a room without anyone to hear him, no communication is taking place.

Genuine communication requires a speaker and a subject. When you are analyzing the effectiveness of an interaction, you can measure the impact of each person involved by switching the roles of speaker and subject as needed.

When a speaker is addressing a group of people, the singular term “subject” is transformed to audience (denoting a larger body of people). The method of measuring the effectiveness of the speaker remains the same.

How does the communication cycle work?

The communication cycle is another central foundation of neurolinguistic programming because it is firmly centered on feedback and the subject.

These are the main principles of the communication cycle:

  1. The speaker’s external behavior triggers thoughts, ideas and emotions in the subject. These are collectively known as the internal response of the subject.
  2. When a subject feels the need to respond to what was done or said, he/she formulates a verbal, vocal or nonverbal expression. This called the subject’s external behavior.
  3. When a subject’s exhibits external behavior, this too triggers thoughts, ideas and emotions in the speaker. When the speaker reacts, external behavior is exhibited. This begins the communication cycle once again.

As you can see, the communication cycle has two main parts: external behavior and internal response. Internal response always precedes external behaviors.

These two factors are contingent upon each other during an interaction or dialogue. No internal response can be elicited from a subject if the speaker does not provide stimuli in the form of external behavior.

A person’s internal response can be further broken down into two constituent parts: the mental process and the mental-emotional state.

The mental process organizes the ideas in preparation for giving an actual feedback or response. The mental-emotional state on the other hand is the quality of the person’s mind after receiving the stimuli.

How does a person’s internal response affect his external behavior or feedback?

A person’s internal response involves not only his way of formulating the verbal response to a previous input, but also his emotions and ideas.  A subject may choose not to express the entirety of his internal response in his external behavior, for obvious reasons.

For example, let’s say that a middle-aged man walked into a computer store with the intention of buying a new laptop. The young salesclerk who attends to this customer’s needs brings out his best sales spiels and offers a plethora of mid-range and high-end laptop computers with a myriad of features.

After 30 minutes of “show and tell,” the middle-aged person keeps telling the young sales clerk “that’s not quite what I was looking for.” The sales clerk continues showing the customer more laptops until finally, the middle-aged customer says “I’ll think about it when I get home” and leaves without buying anything.

The young sales clerk was left frustrated and puzzled with the man’s behavior. In his eyes, he has done his job well. He showed almost every available laptop model in their store. And yet, the man didn’t buy anything!

What was the missing element in the interaction?

Assuming that the salesclerk was polite in the way he was informing the customer of the features of the many laptop models that he pulled off the shelves, we can only come to the conclusion that he failed to elicit feedback from the customer.

The middle-aged customer was probably confused by all the laptop models brought out for him. He felt overwhelmed so after half an hour, his mind simply shut down and he left the store without buying anything.

Had the salesclerk asked the customer what he actually needed in terms of computer usage, the outcome of the interaction would have probably been much different.

In this type of scenario, the obvious mistake is assuming that you know what your subject needs without making an actual inquiry. Expert knowledge is important but genuine communication is even more vital to closing a sale, especially if you are dealing with a difficult individual.

If we were to look at the communication cycle, the young salesclerk failed to adjust his external behavior because he based all his internal responses on what was just verbally expressed during the interaction.