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What is Communication? Types of Communication

Muhammad Rafiq is a freelance writer, blogger, and translator with a master's degree in English literature from the University of Malakand.

What is Communication? Types of Communication

What is Communication? Types of Communication

What is Communication?

Communication is the transfer of information from one person to another via some medium. Communication can be oral, written, or nonverbal. It involves the receiver's interpretation of the sender's message. It can occur face-to-face, on the telephone, through electronic media, and even through sign language.

Communication is essential for survival, because without it, people could not pass on vital information, such as threats from predators. Without communication, people cannot interact. Without interaction, people cannot form groups, societies, and cultures. It is also a social skill that people use daily, whether it's talking with friends, attending meetings, or sending text messages. It is used for business, education, and the law.

Communication is also a two-way process. The sender sends a message, and the receiver interprets the message. It can also be blurred because the receiver can misunderstand the message. The sender can interpret the message wrongly. It can also affect an individual's self-esteem.

Types of Communication

  1. Verbal Communication
  2. Nonverbal Communication
  3. Written Communication
  4. Visual Communication

Verbal Communication

Verbal communication is the ability of an individual to convey a message through spoken words. It involves the use of verbal language, such as words, sounds, and symbols. It is the most commonly used form of human communication. It is the foundation of language, which is a system of symbolic communication.

Verbal communication is the exchange of information through oral words. Humans utilize verbal communication every day--throughout their waking hours, to varying degrees. While other animals do also communicate vocally, humans are unique in that they will communicate with one another even though they are not necessarily members of the same class. Verbal behaviour differs depending on the culture, race, and dialect.

An important aspect of verbal communication is language. Language is the system of communication, but language itself is a complex system. It is a set of sentences, words, and sounds that convey information. Language is learned by humans, however, animals, such as parrots, dolphins, and chimpanzees, are capable of understanding living language.

Humans use language to communicate through different channels. These channels are:

  • Speech
  • Telephone
  • Email
  • Text messaging
  • Instant messaging
  • Writing
  • Oral
  • Video
  • Audio

Verbal communication is a vital part of our lives; we talk all the time. We may not realize how much we talk, but everyone does it.

Verbal communication involves using words, sounds, and signs to convey information or ideas. Verbal communication can take place face-to-face, on the phone, or in writing.

Many people think that verbal communication is the most important type of communication and that verbal communication is the most meaningful type of communication. However, when you communicate with another person, you may hear things through your ears, but the other person actually hears what you are saying through his or her eyes. So if the other person doesn't hear your message, you failed to communicate.

Speeches, discussions, presentations, and conversations are the three primary types of oral communication.

  • Speeches: Speeches are formal or informal presentations made to an audience where emphasis is placed on the content of a message. Speeches differ from lectures in that the lecturer presents information and the teacher presents information. Speeches can also be organized presentations.
  • Discussions: Discussions may be informal or formal and are group conversations or meetings where communication is focused on the results of other people's speech.
  • Presentations: Presentations are considered formal, formal presentations are where the emphasis is placed on the content of the message and the speaker's ability to effectively convey a message.
  • Conversation: Conversation is informal and is usually face-to-face oral communication.

Non-Verbal Communication

Nonverbal communication is a type of communication without the use of words. Nonverbal communication is an umbrella term for the observable, body-based, or expressive behaviors used by humans in their everyday social, occupational, and biological interactions. It includes the reading of facial expressions, body language, gestures, and vocalizations, as well as the more abstract, psychological, and emotional factors.

Nonverbal communication refers to communication that takes place without words; it can refer to either the actual communication itself or to the ways in which communicators convey information. Nonverbal communication refers to any signals of interpersonal communication such as facial expressions, gestures, eye contact, posture, proxemics (proximity) and tone of voice. Nonverbal communication includes all signals that humans exchange with one another, including verbal and nonverbal signals. It includes nonverbal vocalizations (such as body language, gesture or posture) and nonverbal body movements (such as facial expressions, posture and movement, proxemics, and eye contact). It also includes nonverbal vocalizations (such as body language, gesture or posture) and nonverbal body movements (such as facial expressions, posture and movement, proxemics, and eye contact). It encompasses the exchange of information without words, i.e. meaning, or signs.

If you walk down the street and someone speaks to you, you hear the words that are spoken, but you really only pay attention to visual cues.

Nonverbal communication (a.k.a. body language) involves all of those visual cues. When you meet someone face to face, your body language says a lot about you — whether you're happy or sad, confident or insecure, or arrogant or humble.

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Nonverbal communication is also important in the business world.

For example, a handshake is more than just a greeting; it's also a gesture that shows someone your level of confidence. If someone isn't shaking your hand, you might have reason to question their competence or trustworthiness.

Written Communication

Written communication is a type of communication which is composed of the words that you write. Written communication includes letters, emails, memos, reports, and press releases.

Written communication includes all forms of written communication, whether it's formal or informal. For example, you might write an email to your boss, but an informal note to a friend.

The purpose of written communication is to inform, persuade, or entertain. Email, for example, is often used to exchange ideas, share information, or announce an event. Written communication may seem old-fashioned or unnecessary in today's world, but it's an important tool.

In business, written communication can be a powerful sales tool. For example, you might use written communication to introduce a new product or service, increase sales, or announce an upcoming promotion.

However, written communication can also be a hindrance, causing miscommunications, delays, or misunderstandings.

Written communication is very effective because it uses language instead of nonverbal signals. For example, written communication allows you to express complex ideas clearly, and it allows you to record a message for other people.

Written communication also saves a lot of time. You don't have to spend time meeting over coffee or scheduling phone conversations. You can type a message or send an email, and it will arrive relatively quickly.

Written communication is also inexpensive. You don't have to pay to communicate information if you communicate through email.

Examples of written communication include:

Letter: A letter is a written communication that you send to a person or company. Letters can be sent by regular mail, email, fax, or via courier.

Memo: A memo is a written communication that you send to one person or a small group. Memos are often brief and informal.

Email: An email is a written communication that you send to a group of people.

Report: A report is a written communication that you send to a group of people. A report might contain facts, statistics, or survey results.

Press Release: A press release is a written communication that you send to a newspaper or broadcast station.

Visual Communication

The term visual communication refers to using visual elements such as images, graphics, and imagery to transmit information. However, visual communication can also refer to the way in which information is displayed or sent to an audience, known as its visual appearance or look.

Visual communication plays important roles in all human communication. In written language, a word or phrase can be emphasized or de-emphasized through the use of bold font, italics, capitalization, or other typographical effects. Similarly, images or graphics can be used to emphasize or de-emphasize information. In verbal communication, gestures, facial expressions, eye contact, and vocal tone all convey meaning.

In visual communication, images, graphics, and imagery are used to convey meaning in the same way words do in written language, and the same principles apply to verbal communication. However, communication that takes place through visual images is understood to be different from communication that uses spoken or written language.

The Role of Visual Communication

Visual communication plays an important role in human communication.

It plays an especially important role in cases where verbal communication is not the most efficient or reliable way to communicate. Visual communication can help people communicate in situations where they are in danger, where verbal communication may be misconstrued, or where verbal communication is unavailable. Visual communication can also help people communicate in situations where there is limited knowledge of a spoken language.

Visual communication is used in a wide range of contexts. It can be communicated in written language, spoken or signed language, or in a nonverbal context. Some examples of nonverbal communication include body language, gestures, facial expressions, eye contact, and vocal tone.

Visual communication can be communicated through several mediums. Images, photographs, and graphic images can all be considered visual communication.

Visual communication is not to be confused with information design, which is the use of graphic design, typography, and page layout to convey information. Information design, however, is often confused with the visual design of websites and user interfaces, which involve the use of colours, graphics, images, and other media.

Visual communication is ubiquitous. For example, we use visual communication when we watch a film, read our email, or listen to someone speak.

Visual communication affects us in many ways. For example, it influences how we interpret certain events or actions, such as a politician's facial expression.

Visual communication influences our attitudes. For example, advertisements that appeal to our feelings are more effective than those that appeal to our intellect.

Visual communication is multimodal. For example, we can use several senses at once, such as sight, sound, and touch.

Visual communication is vital in today's society. For example, business professionals rely on visual communication to convey their messages.

Visual communication is an important aspect of our daily lives. For example, we communicate visually when we watch films, listen to music, or speak.

Visual communication helps us express ourselves. For example, we use visual communication to express feelings in art and photography.

Elements of Communication

The process of communication can be broken down into eight elements: source, message, channel, receiver, feedback, environment, context, and interference.

  1. Source
  2. Message
  3. Channel
  4. Receiver
  5. Feedback
  6. Environment
  7. Context
  8. Interference

1. Source

When you talk about communication, the word source tends to get left out. The medium, the message, and the person are all important, but so is the source.

The source of communication is the starting point. What gets said? Is it accurate? Does it reflect what the speaker intended? Is it compelling, memorable, or influential?

Sources can be people, places, things, texts, images, sounds, and anything else that is capable of conveying information.

The source of the information is the first thing you need to know. If you're communicating verbally, the source is the person you're speaking with. If you're communicating in writing, the source is the thing that you're writing, such as a page in a newspaper, a piece of text in a document, or a message in an email.

2. Message

Message is the driving force behind all communication. It shapes how information is received and interpreted by the audience. When a message is effective, it can achieve the desired end result, while ineffective messages can result in misunderstandings, miscommunications, and even conflicts.

Understanding message development is critical to effective messaging. There are four key steps:

1. Determine the Audience: Determine who the audience is and determine how the message will be received. Determine how the audience's characteristics factor into the message.

2. Determine the Message: Identify the purpose of your message. Translate the purpose into a specific message.

3. Determine the Channel and Medium: Determine the channel and medium through which to deliver the message. Consider the audience's willingness to receive the message as well as the message's appropriateness for the channel and medium.

4. Determine the Audience Response: Determine the audience's response to the message. Consider what the audience may or may not already know, and consider what the audience's reaction will be.

3. Channel

Channel is the third element of the communication process. It is a way of distributing information and forms the foundation of the other two elements ― message and medium.

A channel of communication can be in-person, such as face-to-face or telephone conversation, or through less-direct means such as email, fax, or snail mail.

Communication Channels are:

  1. E-Mail
  2. Direct Mail
  3. Instant Messaging
  4. Phone Calls
  5. Social Media

Each communication channel has its drawbacks and advantages. While e-mail is a convenient way to contact colleagues and customers, it can be frustrating for recipients who don't check their mail regularly. Even with filters and junk mail blockers, e-mail can be unreliable, as messages can get lost in the mail; get sent to spam folders; and get deleted by mistake.

Direct mail is a reliable method of communication, but has the disadvantage of requiring recipients to physically pick it up and read it. Many recipients simply toss it in the trash.

Instant messaging (IM) is a quick way to send information to colleagues and customers, but conversation threads can get muddled, and IM messages are often deleted.

Phone calls are an instantaneous way to communicate, but phone calls are costly both in terms of time and money. Businesses that communicate with customers over the phone tend to make a lot of personal calls, which is inefficient and wastes precious minutes.

Social media is well suited to spreading information about new products and services, but requires time and effort to maintain.

Your communication channels should complement your communication goals. Email is ideal for tasks like sending marketing messages, but less suitable when you need to communicate personally. Social networks are effective for spreading news, but are less suited to conducting business.

Using multiple communication channels can help you reach your communication goals, but not every communication channel is suited to every purpose. For example, personal phone calls are efficient for conducting business, but are also distracting and interruptive.

4. Receiver

A receiver is a person who receives and understands information, ideas or communication.

In communication, the receiver is someone for whom the information or message is intended. Usually, the receiver is an individual. But in some cases, the receiver is an organization, an institution, or a group of people — for example, the general public.

The receiver takes information, ideas or communication from the communicator. The communicator is the person or entity who sends the message. The sender puts information, ideas or communication into the receiver's mind. The sender can be an individual or an institution.

The sender informs the receiver. The receiver then takes the information, ideas or communication and processes them for meaning.

It's important to understand the receiver to communicate effectively. For example, think about how people communicate differently with different people. Some listeners tune out during meetings. Others need to hear every detail. And some people talk faster than others, so it's important to watch their speed.

Knowing how to communicate with different receivers can help you be more effective. This can help you get things done, whether it’s explaining a complex topic or getting your point across during an important meeting.

The receiver's state of mind is also important. For example, if someone's depressed, they may not hear what you're saying. Understanding what the receiver is going through can help you tailor your communication to their needs.

You can also use different communication methods to reach different receivers. For example, an email is better than a phone call when you're trying to send a complex message. An in-person meeting can be more effective for communicating emotion and body language.

5. Feedback

Feedback is the fifth element of communication process. To learn why feedback is important for communication process, read how to know feedback is the important part of communication process.

Feedback is necessary for communication process. Without feedback, communication process is incomplete. Feedback is any communication that is intended to offer the recipient's opinion, suggestion or reaction on an event, idea or behavior. People who communicate feedback often do so with intent.

In business, however, we sometimes get feedback that is too “close” to us, and we often are unable to see the bigger picture, or we misunderstand the feedback completely. So, how can we ensure that we “hear” the feedback we need in order to grow our business?

The Feedback Process

First of all, it is important to have a feedback system in place. It can be as simple as following up a phone call with a note or email, or as complicated as sending out surveys. Any feedback system that allows people to provide feedback (positive, negative or both) should be implemented.

Once you have a system in place, it is important to monitor the feedback you get. Your team and managers should review the feedback on a regular basis, and discuss the findings with the manager or team lead. This should not be a one-off activity.

When dealing with feedback, it is important to stay objective, and to discuss feedback in a constructive way. It is also a good idea to go through the feedback with your team, in order to make sure that there are no misunderstandings.

6. Environment

Environment is the sixth element of communication process. It refers to everything external to a person. This includes a person's physical surroundings, other people, and external objects.

The physical environment includes everything from the layout of an office to the amount of natural light in a conference room to the way the furniture is arranged in the break room. It can also include things like the climate (hot and humid or cold and dry), the noise level, and whether there are pets in the building.

The social environment includes the people a person interacts with, including family, friends, co-workers, acquaintances, and strangers.

7. Context

The seventh element of communication process is context. It’s worth noting that context is not to be confused with context clues, which are actually the fourth element of communication process.

Context is a broader concept than context clues, however. Context is the overall situation, the setting in which messages are received. It’s often said that context is king, because it shapes how messages are interpreted.

Context is important because it affects how people receive and interpret messages. This is why context is the seventh element of communication process.

The context for every communication situation is different, and people’s interpretation of messages varies based on their context.

For example, consider the difference between how you’d read the following sentences:

“I would like to lose 20 pounds.”

“I want to lose 20 pounds.”

In the first sentence, the emphasis is on the “20”; in the second, the emphasis is on the “I.”

“I would like to lose 20 pounds” suggests that the person is thinking about losing 20 pounds, whereas “I want to lose 20 pounds” suggests that the person is doing something about it.

These two sentences also differ in their context. The first sentence is received in a doctor’s office, where people might focus on a number because it represents an important health goal. The second sentence, on the other hand, is spoken over the phone in a conversation between two people who might not focus on a number.

The context is different in each case, and how people interpret messages changes based on their context.

Context affects communication in many ways. For example, people receive messages in different ways based on where they are, and what’s around them.

8. Interference

Interference is an integral part of communication, and it's what causes communications to break down, misunderstandings, miscommunication, and arguments.

Interference happens when an interaction is happening between two or more people. One person's communication can be affected by the action of another person.

In interpersonal communications, this is referred to as "conflict".

In group communications, this is referred to as "discord"

For example, imagine two people trying to talk over a loud public speaker. One person's volume might be too loud, causing the other's voice to get lost, or it might drown out the other person altogether.

Another example: Someone is repeating the same point over and over to a group of people. Others are tuning out.

In group communications, this is called "discord".

In interpersonal communications, this is "conflict".

In business communications, this is referred to as "tension".

In social networking, this is referred to as "noise".

In political communications, this is referred to as "backlash".

In dating, this is referred to as "incompatibility".

In your everyday communications, this is referred to as "interference".

Clearly, interference can be negative. It can also add something positive to a situation. For example, if two people are talking over each other, but they're not making much sense, then one person's attempt to be louder can clarify a point for the other.

It's possible for interference to be negative, but positive.

For example, two people in interpersonal communication are arguing, or they're trying to make a point, but their words are getting lost.

In this scenario, interference is positive, because it saves the two persons from getting into a quarrel.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2021 Muhammad Rafiq


Muhammad Rafiq (author) from Pakistan on October 14, 2021:

Thanks for taking the time and leaving comments. Have a good day!

Patricia Scott from North Central Florida on October 14, 2021:

Well said. In some sense, communicating has become a lost art. Too many times as I view what is happening in the world, I find that some wish to cut off others who have something important to say. Listening, learning to listen well, has become a most important part of my interaction with others. Thank you for sharing this well done piece. Angels are headed your way this morning ps

Muhammad Rafiq (author) from Pakistan on October 14, 2021:

Thanks for your thoughts! I'm glad you liked it.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on October 13, 2021:

Wonderful summary of the way we communicate. I think we all could use some work on learning to communicate properly.

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