Communication is a word that comes from a Latin word that means to share. Communication means sharing, exchanging, conveying, disclosing, circulating, relaying, declaring, revealing, publicizing, broadcasting and announcing information to other people.
Communicating is vital if we want to connect with other people, listen to their ideas and opinions, and make our own thoughts and emotions known to the world.
We are communicating all of the time, and it can certainly be said that our society is build on communication. Communication enables us to achieve so many things, from architecture to literature. Some people feel more comfortable with certain types of communication than with others. For instance, very shy people often prefer to discuss matters in writing rather than face to face as it is less daunting for them, whilst more extroverted people may prefer to chatter and gesture in a large group!
Also read: Communication: Its Meaning and Importance
Communication can be categorized in many different ways. For example it can be described as formal or informal, or as verbal or non verbal. The categorization that we choose may well depend on the context in which we are analysing communication. In the context of a business, talking about upward and downward communication can be very illuminating for example.
There are so many different types of communication out there in the world – and some of them we use without even being aware of it.
Types of Communication
- On the Basis of Relationships
- Formal communication
- Informal communication
- On the Basis of Forms or Modes of Expression
- Verbal communication
- Non-verbal communication
- Visual communication
- On the basis of Direction of Flow
- Downward communication
- Upward communication
- Horizontal communication
- Diagonal communication
On the Basis of Relationships
1. Formal communication:
Formal communication is communication that occurs in an official setting, and/ or is subject to certain formalized rules and regulations. It is common in business organizations where communications are held along horizontal and vertical levels across various hierarchy. This form of communication often take the form of official, legal, authorized, and other fixed methods of communication. The various types of formal communication includes:
- Formal letters: A legal letter is a good example of this.
- Formal presentations: E.g. to work colleagues, or before a court.
2. Informal communication:
Informal communication refers to the casual, friendly, unofficial, non-formal, way of sharing and conveying information. Such communication occurs in a more relaxed, informal and more spontaneous context. The various forms of informal communication includes:
- Chatting with friends: Whether at a party or over the phone, these informal situations are great to communicate in.
- Text messaging: Using SMS or other instant messaging services is an informal way of staying in touch with people.
- Informal body language: Winking or smiling at someone can be appropriate in an informal (though not in a formal) context.
On the Basis of Forms or Modes of Expression
1. Verbal Communication – uses words and speeches.
Verbal Communication refers to the sharing and exchange of information in the form of word, such as speech, written communication, and listening. For example, when two people talk to each other on the telephone or when someone writes a letter – all these are examples of verbal communication.
1.1 Speech: Oral communication is one of the oldest forms of communication. It can even be said that the sounds made by animals are a form of oral communication. Human speech evolved as humans did, becoming increasingly sophisticated. Nowadays, there are thousands of languages in existence in the world – each of them enables humans to communicate in a slightly different way. As well as language, a person’s accent and tone of voice can help to convey their thoughts and emotions when they speak (a loud, threatening voice will make their words seem angry, for example).
1.2 Written communication: Written communication that uses words as a medium of expression forms a type of verbal communication. Written communication has been a prevalent part of human society for millennia. Society has come a long way from early cuneiform inscriptions on stone, and now we use email, text messaging and printed letters to communicate with each other. Many people prefer to communicate in writing because they can think over and edit their thoughts. Moreover, a written communication such as a letter can be argued to be more durable than speech: whilst spoken words are ‘done with’ as soon as they are spoken, a letter can remain intact as a physical object for years or even centuries. Finally, written words can, in many contexts, be considered more legally binding than spoken communications.
1.3 Listening: When it comes to true communication, listening is at least as important as speaking. Communication is a two-way process – it is all about understanding the other person and allowing them to gain some insight into what is going on in your mind as well. For this to happen, it is essential that you listen to each other carefully and respond accordingly.
Note: Some theories restrict verbal communication to spoken communication only. However, many modern scholars consider all forms of communication done through words are considered verbal communication. In this article, we have chosen the second form while describing verbal communication.
2. Non-Verbal Communication – without words.
Non-verbal Communication takes place in any way other than by using the spoken word or speech. For example, body language is a key example of non verbal communication.
2.1 Body language: This type of communication can often happen unconsciously. Our bodies move and express our thoughts without us realizing it. Yet, we pick up on each other’s body language with surprising accuracy all the time. For example, if we sit on our hands and cross our legs during a job interview, whilst looking nervously towards the door, it will be abundantly clear to the interviewer that we feel closed off and nervous – we do not need to say a word! When we lean towards someone and make a lot of eye contact with them, smiling often, it is clear that we like them: our body speaks volumes here.
2.2 Facial expressions: Facial expressions are slightly different from body language, and so they deserve to be looked at separately. Facial expressions (which can range from winking deliberately to an involuntary downcast look) tend to be more sophisticated than the gestures that we make with our limbs. Babies learn to read faces very quickly and as a result, facial expressions are a huge part of our communicative lexicon.
2.3 Silence: Silence is actually a key form of communication. A companionable silence, an angry silence and a thoughtful silence can all convey something to people around us. Communication is not just about filling the world with sounds, words and gestures! Try communicating without any silence and you will quickly find that it is extremely hard to communicate at all.
2.4 Communicating through the mind: Some people believe that they can communicate with other people simply through the power of thought. This type of communication is usually known as telepathy. The word telepathy comes from two Greek works: the word for ‘distance’ and the word for ‘feeling’ or ’emotion’. Together these words suggest that telepathy is the ability to influence another person from a distance, and to allow them to influence you as well.
3. Visual communication (visual aids).
Visual Communication is done using the power of our sight.
Sign language: Not everyone can communicate through speech and sound. The Deaf community, for instance, use sophisticated sign language to communicate everything from dinner plans to philosophical arguments. Sign language is a key way in which this is done and there are various types of sign language for different countries (British Sign Language, or BSL, being one key example), as well as a more casual form of sign language known as Visual Vernacular.
Art – paintings: From the earliest pictograms to the most intricate of Renaissance paintings, art has long been a way of communicating profound human emotions. In fact, for many art critics, one of the criteria that makes something a true work of art, is its ability to continue to communicate emotions and ideas to human beings throughout the ages.
Emojis: This is a pretty modern form of communication, but it is safe to say that these little pictures have taken the online world by storm. Not quite art and not quite writing, they are definitely in a class of their own. Emojis are used in web chat application such as Skype and Whatsapp, and they are instantly recognizable to anyone who uses their cell phone to communicate with others. It can take a while to learn what all of the emojis mean, but once you have learnt most of them you will find that you are able to express a variety of pretty subtle emotions with just a single click. How many of them do you know?
The written word: Reading a book, letter or email visually enables us to understand new information.
The other modes of visual communication is includes videos, PowerPoint presentations, handouts, projections, graphics, pictures, photographs, graphs, maps, etc.
On the basis of Direction of Flow
1. Downward communication: Communication that flows from the top of an organization’s hierarchy towards the bottom. For example, when a CEO disseminates information to workers about the organization’s aims and projects.
2. Upward communication: Communication that flows from the bottom levels of an organization’s hierarchy towards the top. For example, when employees feed back to their boss about their work.
3. Horizontal communication: This is communication between people who occupy the same level within an organization’s hierarchy. For example, when two colleagues doing the same job discuss their work with each other.
4. Diagonal communication: Communication that occurs between different areas or levels of an organization. Diagonal communication is more all-encompassing than upward or downward communication as it can encompass both these types of communication.
Did you know about all of the types of communication that were listed above? How do you find that you express yourself best – through writing, speech, sign language or art? You can surely enhance your communication skills through practice, hard-work and consistency. We could all do with trying a little harder to be even better communicators.