Wednesday, 28 February 2024
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What is communication? And what are the types of communication?

Communication is a Latin word which means ‘to share’. It is the sharing of information between different individuals. It includes the sharing of ideas, concepts, imaginations, behaviours and written content. Communication is simply defined as the transfer of information from one place to another. The process of sending and receiving messages through verbal or nonverbal means, including speech, or oral communication; writing and graphical representations (such as infographics, maps, and charts); and signs, signals, and behavior. More simply, communication is said to be "the creation and exchange of meaning." 

Communication is a simple process, yet showing complexity in some aspects. Different ways of communication and the distances over which one is required to transfer the information make the process complicated. 

Five Types of Communication Skills 

1) Verbal Communication

Verbal communication can also be called as Oral communication. In very simple terms, any communication that happens orally between people is known as verbal communication. The objective of such communications is to ensure that people understand whatever you want to convey. Because of its very nature, verbal communications is more quick and precise then email communication. 

In the era of messaging via Whatsapp or using email, people still prefer personal meetings or phone calls (or face to face skype calls) because they are effective and much more convenient in conveying the message.

Nowadays, Verbal communication is an important aspect and is looked as a key strength in an individual.

A manager or an executive needs to have good verbal communication skills. A manager has to handle a team of people and he needs to be skilled to convince the team of people in acting like he wants them to. Executives meet many customers who are each different in terms of their understanding and talking skills. Thus, Executives to need excellent verbal communication skills.

The higher up an organization you go, the better should be the verbal skills that you have. This is because you need to ensure that your speech is precise and to the point and does not leave any scope for any misunderstanding.

An M.D or a C.E.O may be giving a television interview which is being watched by 100’s of stakeholders of the company. Their speech and verbal communication need to be precise so that they don’t mess up or are not misunderstood. Even in tough times, the verbal communication skills of these leaders play a major part in consoling the crowd.

Example of people who were great at the verbal type of communications.

  1. Nelson Mandela
  2. Martin Luther King
  3. John F Kennedy
  4. Mahatma Gandhi


2) Non-verbal / Interpersonal communication

How do you make people feel when you enter the room? Is your body language strong and are you standing straight and erect or are you slouched and tired? Are you clean shaven, looking your immaculate best for a team meeting or are you shabby with shirts that are not ironed? When you shake hands, do you do so strongly or do you just brush your hand against others?

The above were some examples of Non-verbal communications or interpersonal communications. One of the HR requirements for new joiners in an organization is for them to have good interpersonal skills. This basically means that the employees should brush up on their non-verbal skills.

If you were in a sales meeting and you have not achieved your target, how will you react? Will you be steady and calm or will you panic and stutter? These are important non-verbal skills and your growth might depend on them.

A manager who panics and who is not good at non-verbal communication will generally not be a favorite with his team members. This is because his team members do not look up to him. A manager who stutters, who is not well dressed, who has the wrong body language or someone who is not a strong personality, will not gather a huge following behind him.

However, people with good personalities go a long way in motivating the employees below them. If an employee is demotivated, just keeping a hand on their shoulder and saying a few motivating words is enough for the employee. Taunting them or making faces when talking to them, ignoring them completely or imitating them will demotivate the employee even further. Thus, non-verbal skills play a major role in office culture.

As employees grow into managers and as managers grow into leaders, they become better and better at a non-verbal type of communications. They know that their own calm headed behavior at times of panic is what will keep the team in check. Similarly, they don’t let their teams get complacent when the going is good.


Example of the Non-verbal type of communications 

In Customer service, non-verbal and interpersonal skills play a huge role. Imagine you were unhappy with a product and you went to the customer service department. Instead of understanding your problem, the customer service executive gives a rude reply. Repeatedly you visit them and even though the problem is not resolved, you don’t get a satisfactory answer.
Compare that with a customer service department which smiles when you come in. They reassure you that they are on top of your problem. They are proactive and update you themselves on when to expect the problem to be resolved. Later on, they follow up whether you were satisfied with the response and if there was anything they could do further.
This smile, the body language of reassurance, the listening ability are all non-verbal type of communications. A good customer service executive will pay special attention to them and will ensure that you leave satisfied! Hiring good customer service executives, who have great interpersonal skills, is the sign of a good organization which is focused on customer satisfaction.


3) Written Communications 

There are many many ways that written communications can be used. The number of ways is ever increasing with the penetration of smartphones and the internet. One of the most common forms of written communications used till date is Email. But slowly, written type of communications is becoming more informal with Whatsapp and other online messaging apps being used regularly.

All different forms of written communication can be formal or informal. If today, we visit a court of law, you will find that even Whatsapp messages are considered to be legal in nature. In fact, there have been so many cases of celebrities brought under the scanner because of wrong written communications on their social media account.

Thus, the above example is further proof that written communication needs to be used safely and effectively. In fact, written communication between friends can be informal but this type of communication between working professionals should always be formal so that any misquoted words are not misused with ill intent.


The advantage of written communication is that it acts as the final word once a decision has been taken. When you quote your prices to the customer, when you rank a dealer on top, when you promote an employee or when you launch a new product, you use written communication to communicate the update to your team and your employees.

A problem with written communication is that it becomes too formal and might incite ego or various political problems when written communication is used. Newspapers are perfect examples of written words which create controversy.

There is a very apt quotation “Words are mightier than swords”. A wrong email delivered in the wrong hands can cause the world to turn upside down. The many emails and documents released by Edward Snowden which brought the US government under the scanner, are perfect examples of how to use written documents safely and privately otherwise they can bring a whole organization tumbling down (whether justified or not is a different discussion)


4) Formal &Informal

There are two types of communication when considering the formality of the communication. One is the formal and official type of communication which can be emails, letterheads, memos, reports and other such kinds of written material. These are considered as documentary evidence and certain formality is associated with them. You cannot submit such formal documents and later deny them.

Informal communication is one where there is nothing official about the communication that is happening. It can be known as Grapevine communication. There is no specific channel of informal communication because there is Social media, Whatsapp, SMS which are all vehicles of informal communication which can be used by people.

Advantages of formal communication

  - When you want to finalize policy and want to decide a course to adopt, then formal communication is more effective

  - Formal communication can help in establishing procedures and ensuring that the steps are followed.

  - Any promises or any official plans need to be formally documented so that they can be referred to later.


Advantages of informal communication

  - informal communication helps the “Open door policy” and makes people more confident and forthcoming with their ideas and creativity.

  - Informal communication does not incite fear into peoples mind

  - Informal talks encourage people to share their problems.


The problem with formal communication is that it is not personal and a distance is maintained if you use only formal communications. Whereas on the other hand, informal conversations can get out of hand and there can be negative grapevine generated.


5) Visual Communication

One of the industries which most prominently uses Visual communication is the medical industry. New medicines which come into the market have to be shown to doctors and the advantages have to be explained. At such times, the medical representatives carry informative pamphlets which are shown to the doctors and dropped with the doctors.

These informative pamphlets have all the information about the medicine so that doctors can feel confident in suggesting the medicine to their patients. Similarly, many different industries are using visual communication to help interaction with their customers so that they can communicate their ideas better. Explainer videos as a concept is rising and is becoming as one of the best types of communication observed on websites.

There are many elements in visual communication that can be used by marketers or companies.

  - Colors (such as brand colors)

  - Design (logo and brand design)

  - Advertising

  - Animations

  - Illustrations

  - Typography

 - Presentations

  - Video resume’s

In person to person communication too visual communication plays a role. Consider the diagrams made by teachers on blackboards when explaining a concept to a class of students. Or we can also take the example of graphs made in powerpoints by managers when doing a powerpoint presentation to a team of executives or seniors.

To summarize, the type of communication most common are

In teams

  - Formal Communication

  - Verbal Communication and Non-verbal communication

  - Written communication

  - Visual communication

In group of people

  - Informal Communication

  - Verbal and Non-verbal communication

  - Informal written communications

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