4 Types of Communication

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 25 August 2020

No matter what job you're applying for, employers will likely expect you to have excellent verbal and written communication skills. Depending on the position, you may need to communicate effectively with managers, employees and customers in person, over the internet, on the phone or in writing. In this article, we explain why communication is important, review the different types of communication and discuss how to improve your communication skills.

Importance of communication

To communicate is to exchange information, and to communicate effectively is to understand and be understood. Effective communication satisfies all participants and reduces chances of conflict and misunderstandings. We use communication every day in nearly every environment, including in the workplace.

Developing strong communication skills can help you secure a job, advance your career and build your network. Whether you give a slight head nod in agreement or present information to a large group, communication is absolutely necessary when building relationships, sharing ideas, delegating responsibilities, managing a team and much more.

Types of communication

There are four main types of communication that people use on a daily basis and in their careers. These include verbal, nonverbal, visual and written communication. Here's a look at each of these types of communication, why they are important and how you can develop or improve them for success in your professional life:

  • Verbal communication

  • Nonverbal communication

  • Written communication

  • Visual communication

Verbal communication

Information shared through conversation with groups or individuals is the most common type of communication. At work, this skill is typically used during one-on-one conversations, meetings, phone calls, video conferences and presentations. Here are some ways you can improve your verbal communication skills:

  • Think before you speak: By organising your ideas, you can eliminate awkward pauses when you speak, along with filler words like 'uh' or 'um', so that you convey your information more concisely. When making a presentation, write down your thoughts and rehearse what you have to say. At an impromptu discussion, take a few minutes to organise your thoughts before you start to speak.

  • Be concise and clear: The most effective way to convey an idea is to make it in a clear and concise manner. Avoid using complex sentences and try to state your argument using direct language. Before you speak, ask yourself what the clearest way you can convey your ideas is.

  • Speak with confidence: Confidence can help to build trust with and earn respect from your listener. Your speaking confidence is reflected in the word choices you make, your body language, your knowledge of the subject matter, the tone of your voice and your ability to make direct eye contact with the listener.

  • Be aware of your nonverbal communication cues: Your body language greatly affects the way your listener interprets what you say. Remain conscious of the gestures and facial expressions you make when trying to convey important information effectively.

Nonverbal communication

Whether you are aware of it or not, when you communicate you are continuously sharing and receiving wordless signals. All of your nonverbal cues, such as the tone of your voice, your posture, the gestures you make and establishing eye contact send out strong signals. When your nonverbal signals align with the words you are saying, they increase clarity, trust and rapport. When they don't, they can cause confusion, mistrust and tension.

Here are some nonverbal communication skills you can improve:

  • Focus on your voice tone: The tone of your voice can express a lot, ranging from disinterest to anger. Start observing how your tone affects listeners when you are trying to emphasise something. For instance, if you want to express genuine interest in something, use an animated tone to express enthusiasm.

  • Maintain good eye contact: When you fail to look others in the eye, it can appear as if you are evading or hiding something. On the other hand, too much eye contact can be taken as intimidating or confrontational. Effective eye contact has to feel comfortable and natural for both you and the person you are speaking with.

  • Be considerate of your listener's personal space: Pay attention to your proximity to the person you are speaking with. If your listener is uncomfortable because you're standing too close to them, create some distance between the two of you. The amount of physical space provided can convey a lot of emotions.

  • Use nonverbal cues or signals to make communication more meaningful: Keep in mind that verbal and nonverbal communication work together to convey information effectively. Body language is very useful when speaking or making presentations to a large group. For instance, if your goal is to appear prepared and confident, focus on sending nonverbal signals such as standing up straight so that others see you as capable and self-assured.

Written communication

Written communication is the most common and effective method of business communication. Written job descriptions, employee manuals, journals, letters, documents, reports, memos and emails are some of the commonly used forms of communication in any organisation. Good communication is critical for developing positive business relationships and for career advancement.

Unlike verbal and nonverbal communication, where you use tone of voice and body language to express yourself, written communication greatly depends on word choice, punctuation and grammar. Given its importance, with practice and hard work, you should be able to develop good writing skills for effective communication.

The key aspects of professional writing skills are:

  • Clarity: Clarity refers to using simple words and adhering to specific and concrete information.

  • Conciseness: It's important to convey your message quickly and efficiently. Include only the information that is necessary to communicate your point.

  • Tone: In business writing, the tone is professional, combined with varying degrees of friendliness and formality depending on the situation.

  • Active voice: Active voice is usually more accessible and easier to follow than passive voice. Active voice makes your sentences flow better and allows the reader to understand your message faster.

  • Grammar and punctuation: The attention you pay to correct punctuation and grammar will depend on the level of formality your writing requires. Even in informal writing, punctuation and grammar are important for effective communication.

Use these tips to improve your written communication skills:

  • Set your objective before you start writing: Setting a goal makes your writing clear and focused. Having clarity about the objective enables you to write with purpose and convey the message or information using simple and concise language.

  • Include only the necessary details: Keep your sentences short and to the point. Adding unnecessary information and details can confuse the reader and make your writing lose focus.

  • Use outlines: Take the time to create an outline to organise your ideas, especially when writing longer reports. An outline helps you to incorporate all necessary details in a logical order.

  • Keep it professional: All business writing should be formal and professional. Avoid use of informal language with juniors, colleagues and managers.

  • Edit carefully: Reread your message multiple times. Be conscious about the style of writing and proofread to check for spelling and grammar mistakes before finalising your written material.

Visual communication

Visual communication uses imagery and symbols to convey views and ideas. Graphic designs, signs, typography, slide presentations and video films are types of visual communications that you can use.

To make verbal communication more meaningful and effective during a presentation, it's often helpful to use visual techniques and tools, such as a picture or a graph. Adding visuals to written communication can also help clarify information, attract interest and engage the reader or listener.

Visual communication has become an important part of professional and personal communication. To communicate better, it is important to develop good visual communication skills.

Here are some helpful tips to develop your visual communication skills:

  • Look for inspiration: Thinking of good designs for visual communication doesn't necessarily require you to have the experience and skill of a designer. You can seek inspiration in everything you do or see. This is important because it makes you more imaginative, open-minded, observant and curious.

  • Keep it short: Like other types of communication, you should make visual communication as clear as possible. Keep in mind that the main purpose of visualisation is to communicate complexity with simplicity.

  • Make it interesting: For visual communication to be impressive, it should be creative, soothing and aesthetically pleasing. For example, good typography and the use of a striking colour palette can help increase the readability of a sign.