4 Types of Communication (With Tips)

By Indeed Editorial Team

11 February 2021

Strong communication skills are essential for advancement in your career. Almost all jobs require you to communicate with others, whether to make sales, work on internal projects as a team or complete other tasks. In this article, we discuss the four different types of communication skills and how to use them effectively in your professional life.

What is communication?

Communication is the act of sharing or transferring information between two or more individuals or a group of people. Technically, each communication process requires a sender, a recipient, a message and a medium. The transmission of a message often has emotions and cultural significance attached to it. Due to differences in perception and understanding, the receiver at the end of the communication chain may not interpret the message in the same way as intended by the original sender. This is the reason why employers look for candidates with good communication skills who can convey ideas and messages accurately and effectively.

Why is communication important?

Whether you are preparing a business report, answering a phone call or just nodding your head in approval, you are communicating in some form. Some jobs, such as those related to sales or service, may require strong interpersonal skills as a basic eligibility criterion. Hence, good communication skills help you discharge your duties more effectively. They also help you build better relationships at your workplace and increase your chances of success in your career.

What are the different types of communication?

There are four types of communication: verbal, nonverbal, written and visual. While many situations use one singular type of communication, you may find that some communications involve a blend of several different types at once. For example, sending an email involves only using written communication, but giving a presentation can involve all four types of communication.

  1. Verbal communication

  2. Nonverbal communication

  3. Written communication

  4. Visual communication

1. Verbal communication

Verbal communication is the most common type of communication. It involves the use of spoken words or sign language to share information. Verbal communication can either happen face to face or through other channels, such as mobile phone, radio and video conferencing. Thus, if your job involves conducting business meetings, giving presentations and making phone calls, your employer would expect you to have good verbal communication skills.

2. Nonverbal communication

Nonverbal communication involves passive communication through the use of gestures, tone of voice, body language and facial expressions to share your thoughts and feelings. You can even communicate non-verbally by the way you dress. Nonverbal communication often supports or adds to verbal communication. For example, the tone of your voice and your posture can reveal your mood or emotions to those around you.

3. Written communication

Written communication includes communicating through writing, typing or printing. It is done through channels such as letters, text messages, emails, social media and books. Businesses may prefer written communication because it has fewer chances of distortion. For example, communicating a business plan in writing ensures that everyone gets the same message and can refer to it any time in the future.

4. Visual communication

Visual communication uses graphs, charts, photographs, maps and logos to share information. It is mostly used in combination with verbal or written communication in order to simplify the information. For example, using slides and flow charts during a presentation makes it easier for the audience to grasp complex data.

Tips for effective communication

Misunderstanding can occur in any type of communication. An effective communicator seeks to minimise the chances of misunderstanding and the message in an impactful manner. Here are some actionable tips to help you communicate effectively.

  • Common tips for all types of communication

  • Verbal communication tips

  • Nonverbal communication tips

  • Written communication tips

  • Visual communication tips

Common tips for all types of communication

The following tips will help enhance all four types of communication:

  • Minimise the potential of misunderstanding. Identify the barriers in each stage of communication and try to remove them to the best extent possible. For instance, if your audience speaks a different language, consider seeking a translator.

  • Understand your audience. When you understand the demographics of your audience, you are able to share a message according to their level of understanding and knowledge.

  • Seek feedback from the recipient. Feedback helps you identify if your listener received your message correctly. You can then take corrective measures and fine-tune your future communication process accordingly to avoid misunderstanding and confusion.

  • Choose the right channel of communication. There are many different types of communication channels available today, including phone calls, emails, text messages, social media, radio, TV and live broadcasts online. Each channel has its own strengths and weaknesses. Hence, it is important to decide which channel would be most appropriate for your communication. For example, the live broadcast of an event may be more effective to share news with a large audience, while complex, technical data may be better sent through a printed document.

Verbal communication tips

Use the following tips to enhance verbal communication:

  • Speak confidently in a strong voice. Be loud and clear when you are speaking to a group of people so that everyone can hear you properly. Your voice should exude confidence in the ideas you are trying to share. Support your oral communication with positive body language.

  • Listen patiently. Active listening is the key to good verbal communication. Whether you are having a one-on-one conversation or conducting a team meeting, always make it a point to listen to others. This will give a sense of significance and participation to others, and they will likely listen to you more attentively. You will also get an idea of what your audiences want and what they think.

  • Be clear and concise. Choose your words according to the level of your audience. For example, you should convert technical jargon into layperson's language while speaking to a non-technical audience. If required, replace filler words like “um” and “OK” with a pause to take a breath, so that these words do not distract your audience.

Nonverbal communication tips

Here are some actionable tips to help make your nonverbal communication more effective:

  • Feel your emotions. Try to observe how different emotions have a physical impact on your body. For example, you may find that whenever you feel confused, you begin picking at your fingernails without knowing it. Once you are aware of how your body reacts to your emotions, you can then take steps to modify the reaction or your behaviour.

  • Be conscious of your body language. Make deliberate efforts to correct negative postures and expressions each time you are aware of them. For example, you may feel tired after a hectic day and tend to have hunched shoulders during the end-of-the-day meeting with your team. Try to straighten your posture as soon as you become aware of this. Over time, you may gain mastery over the way your body communicates your emotions and feelings.

  • Learn from others' body language. If you come across certain gestures and expressions that are working well for someone else, try to mimic them for yourself. For instance, if you see that someone just smiles and ignores a sarcastic remark instead of answering it back, you may start using this technique for yourself in a similar setting.

Written communication tips

The following tips will enhance the effectiveness of your written communication:

  • Keep it short and simple. This practise will avoid confusion and save time. Be clear in writing down your message. Keep things simple in order to avoid a misunderstanding. Only include details that are necessary for the recipient to know. For example, you may include more details in a technical guide than you would marketing materials.

  • Be aware of potential misinterpretation. In verbal and nonverbal communication, you have several other elements, such as your tone, expression and body language, to help the recipient understand what you are trying to convey. However, in written communication, your recipient doesn't have access to your tone, so they may interpret your emotions in different ways. For example, the reader may not be able to tell the difference between a joke or a serious statement.

  • Proofread your writing. Make sure you proofread your letters, emails and other written communication before sending them. You may also ask someone else to review your writing for you. This will help you correct mistakes and refine your communication.

  • Collect samples of good writing. Whenever you find an email, pamphlet or document that's well written, save it in a file. You can refer to it when you need to prepare a similar piece of communication in the future.

Visual communication tips

Here are some tips for effective visual communication:

  • Get feedback on the visuals you plan to include. Sometimes, the visuals you plan to add to a communication may cause confusion instead of simplifying the concept. Getting another perspective is a good way to decide whether your visual is effective or not.

  • Keep your audience in mind. Only include visuals that your audience can understand. If required, try explaining the visuals to them in as simple terms as possible.