Updated June 8, 2023
Types of Communication
Types of communication mean the different ways in which people communicate with each other. It includes various communication methods, such as verbal, written, visual, digital, and nonverbal communication. All types of communication are used in different contexts depending on the message conveyed and the targeted audience. Understanding the different types of communication can help people effectively express their ideas, thoughts, and feelings to others.
Introduction To Types of Communication
Have you ever observed your most practiced activity, one that you voluntarily exercise almost as often as your breathing?
If you haven’t guessed already, it’s “Communicating.” We’re constantly communicating through various forms, channels, gestures, and expressions, all as a natural reflection of ourselves. But while it is completely voluntary, our communication is not always conscious. We sometimes communicate without clear awareness, leading to misleading or even conflicting expressions of ourselves.
And there lies the key to excellent communication: awareness. If we can constantly stay aware of the subtle communication signals we send out every moment, we can align this to reflect what we want to express. Our communication is then no longer accidental; it’s thoroughly incidental!
So let us take a step back and ask you:
- Are you aware that you’re communicating every moment?
- Are you aware of the various expressions of your communication?
- With yourself, with others, with nature? And finally, are you constantly communicating what you want to communicate in the way you want to do it?
Often, the answers we receive to these thought-provoking questions are mixed, tending towards an unsure “No.” Through this post, we address this dilemma. We highlight the various types of communication and their multi-dimensional expressions so that you can develop super-keen awareness around your communication.
Various Types of Communication
Okay, so this one is especially for you if you’ve been vaguely surprised by the initial section of this post.
“Communicating every moment? How is that even possible? It’s not like I have my mouth open every minute”.
Ah, but you see, we communicate not just verbally but also non-verbally and even informally. This chart shows the entire gamut of the various communication channels and expressions we enjoy.
As you can see, there are at least six distinct types of communication: non-verbal, verbal-oral-face-to-face, verbal-oral-distance, verbal-written, formal, and informal. Add to this the boundless opportunities the Internet superhighway offers, and you have an absolute goldmine of communication possibilities!
In successive sections of this post, we highlight the finer nuances of these distinct expressions so your communication is conscious, focused, and mighty effective.
This, among all types of communication, is more subtle yet far more powerful. It includes the entire gamut of physical postures and gestures, tone and pace of voice, and the attitude you communicate with.
In the past few decades, body language experts have revealed how the posture you adopt, the hand gestures you endorse, and other facets of your physical personality affect your communication. Spending a few hours coming up to speed on basic body-language gestures is worthwhile so you don’t inadvertently send mixed messages with your gestures and speech. You can also use this to support your message, making it more impactful.
But despite what these experts tell you, there will be times when the body language you adopt contrasts with how you feel (like using a “friendly” posture when you internally feel threatened or intimidated). Hence, non-verbal types are most effective when these three facets are consistent.
- What you say with your words.
- It Can also be what you share with your postures and gestures (learned to express the right message).
- What you feel inside you impacts the subtle message you feel compelled to share outside you.
As you can see, (1) and (2) can be learned with practice. But (3) has to be consciously built, so constantly align yourself to what you want to express.
For instance, when you want your peers, team members, seniors, and others to…
- Consider your friends; you genuinely like and care for people.
- Think of you as a strong Leader; you genuinely take responsibility for yourself and the team.
- Listen to them; you will genuinely listen and factor in their thoughts and opinions.
Oral Communication (Face-to-Face)
Face-to-face oral communication is the most recognized type of communication. Here, what you express comes directly from what you speak. Again, this can be formal or informal: with your friends and family, in a formal meeting or seminar, at work with your colleagues and boss, within your community, during professional presentations, etc.
These types of communication –
- Gets better with practice. The more you practice with awareness, the more control you have over your oral expressions.
- It is vibrantly alive! This means that despite all past rehearsals, oral communication offers you a present-moment opportunity to tune, revise, revoke, and fix what you express. It is hence the most powerful type of communication and can work for or against you with every expression.
- Engages your audience more than other types of communication. The listener (or an audience) often expects to speak back to you with oral communication, enabling two-way communication more than any other channel.
For superior face-to-face communication,
- Always meet the eyes of your audience with confidence, conviction, and openness.
- Practice before a mirror to perfect your tone and expressions so they suit the message you want to convey. These two facets often convey more than your words do.
- Practice using role-play. This means that even when you rehearse before a mirror, candidly ask yourself, “Am I ready to receive this message with this tone and expression?” If you aren’t convinced, your audience won’t be either. So practice again until you get it right.
- Consciously engage your audience’s participation. You can do this by asking questions, getting their opinion, and encouraging the expression of new ideas. This is the strength of this type of communication, so never let your oral expression be a one-way rant to yourself.
- Finally, become an active listener. An effective oral communicator speaks and actively listens to his audience.
Oral Communication (Distance)
Distance (oral) communication has made the world smaller and more accessible. Mobile Phones, VOIP, video-conferencing, 2-way webinars, etc., are all modern expansions of distance communication, taking its expression to the next subtle level. And in this type of communication, your tone of voice and pace of delivery take priority over other expressions.
For effective oral communication over distance,
- Give higher priority to your listening. Multiple people attempt to speak simultaneously, undermining the value of this form of communication.
- Speak slightly slower than you would in face-to-face communication. This will ensure that you remain aware of the subtle nuances of your tone and that the receiver has time to grasp them.
- Always re-iterate what you understand when you listen. This type of communication misses the non-verbal signals you would receive in face-to-face communication (that can indicate subtle expressions like anger, friendliness, receptivity, sarcasm, etc.) To ensure clear communication, take the initiative to paraphrase what you understand and confirm with the other party that your understanding aligns with their intended message.
- Wear your friendly face with a smile on your lips and eyes where appropriate. This may not be appropriate if you expect to convey a warning on the phone, so ensure your face suits your message. Your tone will automatically convey your openness and receptivity to the other person.
- Back this up with written communication whenever possible. This makes sense even for an informal call with your friend – perhaps you can send a quick text message to re-iterate how pleasurable it was to speak to him and then confirm the final call for action. The intent is to confirm the takeaway from the communication so all parties are on the same page.
A few decades ago, written communication depended on the trusty old mailman as we wrote to people far away. On rare occasions, this also included a formal note or legal notice from the bank, landlord, business client, etc. These types of communication have now taken over every aspect of our world!
Think about it, if you club the total written communication you engage within a day – the text messages you send over your fancy mobile, your Facebook and Twitter updates, personal and professional emails, heck, even the blogs you write – it would far surpass any other verbal communication you enjoy. Correct? It makes sense then to be an absolute pro at this type of communication. Listed below are three rules that can help you get there.
- Follow a clear structure so your communication is not all over the place. This can include a brief introduction, agenda, message body, and conclusion. The cleverness and effectiveness of your communication lie in how you capture this structure in your mode of communication (email, text message, a quick status update on social media, etc.).
- Clarify the context of your communication where possible. This might seem like an overkill for a harmless text message. But you’d be amazed at the amount of seemingly innocuous (written) communication that reaches the wrong eyes and ears. So ensure that your context is reasonably clear, no matter who the recipient is.
- There are few instances when written communication is formal (addressed to professional peers, seniors, or third parties) or purely informal (addressed only to your immediate friend/family circle). More often, it falls between these two modes. Hence, play safe by adapting a semi-formal tone, keeping your communication clean (in language and expression), and open (without offending any group). Having your friends think of you as a “stiff” communicator is far better than having your boss view you as an “offensive” communicator! Always err on the right side of caution.
Compared to all other types of communication, this is also called “official communication” and covers the gamut of verbal expressions that address a formal need.
- Conducted through a pre-determined channel. For instance, professional relationships include financial communication (from and to your bank, creditors, debtors, etc.) and legal expressions.
- More time-consuming than non-formal communication, as it follows a particular communication protocol.
- Even in cases of oral expressions (in meetings, seminars, etc.), it is often backed by written communication that can provide documentation evidence of the conversation. (This written communication could be as simple as a minutes-of-meeting to as complex as a detailed recording.)
- Considered a reliable source of information. (So when you receive a legal notice from your bank, you better take notice of it!)
Formal communication forms the core of our professional lives (though not all professional communication is formal). Hence becoming an expert in this type of communication is central to professional advancement and success.
Below, we provide simple tips to excel in your expression and profession. (This works well for written communication too.)
- Begin by clarifying the purpose of your communication.
- Whether you use an oral or written expression, always follow a well-defined structure your audience can easily understand.
- Keep your tone open, professional, and friendly.
- End by re-iterating what you expect to cause through this communication: clarification on your stance, answers to questions, a call to action, etc. Also, clarify any constraints that apply to this communication (like confidentiality, time-limit for a response, etc.)
- Finally, thank your audience for listening.
Informal communication is surprisingly popular and called “the (unofficial) grapevine.” This is often by word-of-mouth information. These types of communication open you up to unofficial yet provocative information.
Informal communication is
- Spontaneous and free-flowing, without any formal protocol or structure. Hence this type of information is also less reliable or accurate.
- A communication channel that spreads like wildfire, as there are no formal rules to follow.
- Mostly oral, with no documentation evidence. Due to this, many undermine the value of informal communication, terming it mere “gossip.”
Despite its drawbacks, informal types of communication are considered “user-friendly” and offer huge advantages when used wisely. For instance, consider this example where three different caterers serve a company.
Employees may become aware of the timings of service, rules, and regulations through formal communication by company management. But they will become aware of the preferred caterer of the day through informal communication with friends and colleagues. These types of communication serve well when you want to control or encourage positive opinions, ideas, and expressions without making them seem like they’ve been “thrust upon” by senior management.
Note: In modern times, social networks from “unofficial” sources (like your personal Facebook and Twitter feeds, LinkedIn, etc.) are powerful informal communication sources often used to shape public opinion.
You get the drift.
Communication is a powerful activity that comes to us as naturally as breathing. With a little awareness, our communication can be flawless, so the other person receives our message and is open to it.
We leave you with this powerful quote from Enlightened Master Paramahamsa Nithyananda, revealing a potent tip that shows its power in all types of communication (formal, informal, verbal, non-verbal, etc.).
“Communication begins with Listening!”
So the next time you find yourself in a frustrating conversation, focus on your listening. This will help you grasp what your audience wants to hear from you, so you can tailor your communication to make your audience receptive too.