Two-way communication

In this model the information flows from the sender to the receiver and back from receiver to the sender again in the other direction (Figure 7.8). Two-way communication is reciprocal, the communicant (receiver) becomes the communicator (sender) and the communicator (sender) in turn becomes a communicant (receiver). Most ordinary conversations are along the lines of this model (Figure 7.9). Two-way communication is usually more appropriate for problem-solving situations.

A diagram representing two-way communication.

Figure 7.8 Two-way communication

A woman and a health worker sit together in an office to talk.

Figure 7.9 In informal settings two-way communication between a health worker and people from the community is sometimes easier. (Photo: Ali Wyllie)

As a health worker, or just in normal life, you often have cause to have a conversation with people. Think about one recent conversation and look Table 7.2 below to see whether you agree with the advantages and disadvantages of this type of communication.

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There are no right or wrong answers to this question, but this has been a chance to begin to assess the qualities of two-way communication that will be useful in your work.

Table 7.2 Advantages and disadvantages of two-way communication.


● More audience participation

● Learning is more democratic

● Open to feedback

● May influence behaviour change

● Slower, takes more time

Box 7.4 summarises some key terms for two-way communication.

Box 7.4 Key terms for two-way communication

Sender: the originator of each message — this could be an individual, group or organisation.

Message: the idea being communicated.

Channel: the means by which a message travels from sender to receiver.

Receiver: the person for whom the communication is intended.

Effect: the change in the receiver's knowledge, attitude or practice.

Feedback: telling what they have done well or how to improve. Two-way feedback means that members of the community can tell you what you communicated well and what didn't work so well.

Body Mass Index (BMI) is a measure of a person's weight, taking their height into account. Very low or very high BMI is a health risk.

Using the example of body mass index (BMI), note down possible examples for each component of two-way communication listed in the key terms above.

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Possible examples:

  • The sender may be an individual or groups or organisations who are keen to help people to think about their BMI.
  • The message might be something like 'check your body mass index'.
  • The channel could be verbal, for example during peer education. Printed materials or audiovisual channels could be used for other messages about BMI to wider audiences.
  • The receiver may be an individual, family or the whole community.
  • The effect will be the change in the receiver's attitude, knowledge and practice.
  • Feedback should be positive when the desired change in knowledge, attitude and practice (KAP) occurs — but will be negative when the desired change in knowledge, attitude and practice doesn't occur.
Last modified: Saturday, 28 June 2014, 10:17 AM