Types of Communication – Back to Basics

Most jobs involve some degree of writing. According to the National Commission on Writing, 67% of salaried employees in large American companies and professional state employees have some writing responsibility. Half of responding companies reported that they take writing into consideration when hiring professional employees, and 91% always take writing into account when hiring (for any position, not just professional-level ones).

Different types of communication

Communication can be categorized into three basic types: (1) verbal communication, in which you listen to a person to understand their meaning; (2) written communication, in which you read their meaning; and (3) nonverbal communication, in which you observe a person and infer meaning. Each has its own advantages, disadvantages, and even pitfalls.

Verbal communications in business take place over the phone or in person. The medium of the Message is oral. Let’s return to our printer cartridge example. This time, the Message is being conveyed from the Sender (the Manager) to the Receiver (an employee named Bill) by telephone. We’ve already seen how the Manager’s request to Bill (“We need to buy more printer toner cartridges”) can go awry. Now let’s look at how the same Message can travel successfully from Sender to Receiver.

Manager: “Our next step is to order more printer toner cartridges. Could you place an order for 1,000 printer toner cartridges with Jones Computer Supplies? Our budget for this purchase is $30,000, and the cartridges need to be here by Wednesday afternoon.”

(Bill, who is good at active listening, repeats what he has heard. This is the Feedback portion of the communication, and verbal communication has the advantage of offering opportunities for immediate feedback. Feedback helps Bill to recognize any confusion he may have had hearing the manager’s Message. Feedback also helps the manager to tell whether she has communicated the Message correctly.)

Types of Communication

1. Verbal Communication

Verbal communication encompasses all communication using spoken words, or unspoken words as in the case with sign language. It is important to understand how to effectively communicate your ideas verbally in order to avoid misunderstandings and maximize interest while you speak. Make sure to use the right type of language, speak clearly, know your audience, respond in the best way, and use an appropriate tone when speaking.

Two students sitting on bench talking in winterPhoto by Anna Vander Stel on Unsplash

2. Nonverbal Communication

What is actually being said is only half the battle — the rest lies in what isn’t being said. This means your tone, facial expressions, body language, hand movements, and eye contact. When you make yourself aware of what the rest of you is doing as you speak, you can make corrections and eventually use all the right nonverbal cues to convey your point.

3. Written Communication

Written communication is a form of verbal communication, but it is so different than spoken verbal communication that this form gets its own separate type. Written communication can take the form of anything you write or type such as letters, emails, notes, texts, billboards, even a message written in the sky! With written communication, it is important you know your audience, your purpose, and maintain consistency throughout your written message.

4. Visual Communication

Visual communication is one you may not have heard of, but it is one that complements the other types of communication well. Visual communication is delivering information, messages, and points by way of graphical representations, or visual aids.

Some commonly used examples are slide presentations, diagrams, physical models, drawings, and illustrations. When you use visual communication in addition to verbal, nonverbal, and written communication, you create a very effective way for your message to be heard and understood.

Thought bubble made of crumpled yellow papers on green backgroundPhoto by Volodymyr Hryshchenko on Unsplash

5. Listening

Listening is a surprisingly important part of communication and in order to be a great communicator, you must master the art of listening. Remember that listening doesn’t just mean hearing, or politely waiting for your turn to speak. When others are speaking, you should practice active listening, which means that you are engaging your mind while the person speaks, intently focusing on what they are saying.

Types of communication

There are several different ways we share information with one another. For example, you might use verbal communication when sharing a presentation with a group. You might use written communication when applying for a job or sending an email. Here’s a more in-depth look at the four main categories of communication:

1. Verbal

Verbal communication is the use of language to transfer information through speaking or sign language. It is one of the most common types, often used during presentations, video conferences and phone calls, meetings and one-on-one conversations. Verbal communication is important because it is efficient. It can be helpful to support verbal communication with both nonverbal and written communication.

Use a strong, confident speaking voice. Especially when presenting information to a few or a group of people, be sure to use a strong voice so that everyone can easily hear you. Be confident when speaking so that your ideas are clear and easy for others to understand.

Avoid filler words. It can be tempting, especially during a presentation, to use filler words such as “um,” “like,” “so” or “yeah.” While it might feel natural after completing a sentence or pausing to collect your thoughts, it can also be distracting for your audience. Try presenting to a trusted friend or colleague who can call attention to the times you use filler words. Try to replace them by taking a breath when you are tempted to use them.

2. Nonverbal

is the use of body language, gestures and facial expressions to convey information to others. It can be used both intentionally and unintentionally. For example, you might smile unintentionally when you hear a pleasing or enjoyable idea or piece of information. Nonverbal communication is helpful when trying to understand others’ thoughts and feelings.

If they are displaying “closed” body language, such as crossed arms or hunched shoulders, they might be feeling anxious, angry or nervous. If they are displaying “open” body language with both feet on the floor and arms by their side or on the table, they are likely feeling positive and open to information.

Notice how your emotions feel physically. Throughout the day, as you experience a range of emotions (anything from energized, bored, happy or frustrated), try to identify where you feel that emotion within your body. For example, if you’re feeling anxious, you might notice that your stomach feels tight. Developing self-awareness around how your emotions affect your body can give you greater mastery over your external presentation.

Be intentional about your nonverbal communications. Make an effort to display positive body language when you feel alert, open and positive about your surroundings. You can also use body language to support your verbal communication if you feel confused or anxious about information, like using a furrowed brow. Use body language alongside verbal communication such as asking follow up questions or pulling the presenter aside to give feedback.

Mimic nonverbal communications you find effective. If you find certain facial expressions or body language beneficial to a certain setting, use it as a guide when improving your own nonverbal communications. For example, if you see that when someone nods their head it communicates approval and positive feedback efficiently, use it in your next meeting when you have the same feelings.

3. Written

Written communication is the act of writing, typing or printing symbols like letters and numbers to convey information. It is helpful because it provides a record of information for reference. Writing is commonly used to share information through books, pamphlets, blogs, letters, memos and more. Emails and chats are a common form of written communication in the workplace.

Strive for simplicity. Written communications should be as simple and clear as possible. While it might be helpful to include lots of detail in instructional communications, for example, you should look for areas where you can write as clearly as possible for your audience to understand.

Don’t rely on tone. Because you do not have the nuance of verbal and nonverbal communications, be careful when you are trying to communicate a certain tone when writing. For example, attempting to communicate a joke, sarcasm or excitement might be translated differently depending on the audience. Instead, try to keep your writing as simple and plain as possible and follow up with verbal communications where you can add more personality.

Take time to review your written communications. Setting time aside to re-read your emails, letters or memos can help you identify mistakes or opportunities to say something differently. For important communications or those that will be sent to a large number of people, it might be helpful to have a trusted colleague review it as well.

Sources:

https://courses.lumenlearning.com/atd-tc3-management/chapter/different-types-of-communication/
https://www.uopeople.edu/blog/types-of-communication-back-to-basics/
https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/career-development/types-of-communication

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