The right form of communication can help people to develop better skills in the workplace. No matter whether you’re communicating with colleagues, interacting with clients, or leading a team, the ability to convey ideas clearly and connect with others is important for developing your communication methods. In this article, we will explore different communication methods, from verbal and non-verbal communication to written and visual channels. You will learn how to optimise these methods into workplace interactions.
What is Communication?
Communication is the basic understanding of human interaction, whereupon two people or more can exchange information, ideas, and emotions. At its core, communication involves a sender, a message, and one or more recipients. However, it’s far from a straightforward process, as numerous factors can influence its effectiveness. Understanding these factors is crucial for navigating workplace communication.
Factors that can impact communication include our emotions, the cultural context, the chosen medium, and even our physical location. As a result, employers usually value those with the ability to communicate accurately, effectively, and adaptably, as such qualities are often rare to find.
As mentioned, different communication methods usually consists of three essential components:
- The Sender: This is the person or entity beginning the communication process, responsible for crafting and delivering the message.
- The Message: This represents the information, ideas, or emotions the sender intends to convey.
- The Recipients: These are the people or groups receiving the message. Understanding the message can be influenced by various factors, such as the recipients’ familiarity with the sender, their level of expertise in the subject matter, their psychological state, or their cultural context.
In addition, potential barriers to effective communication may arise, including language differences or hearing impairments. Skilled communicators will work promptly in identifying and addressing these potential sources of misunderstanding, to ensure a smoother interaction.
For businesses, considering various communication methods is essential for success. Factors like organisational size, target audience, and the nature of the message all influence the choice of communication method. During business meetings, effective organisation with a clear agenda fosters information dissemination and encourages interaction, questions, and responses from employees.
How Do Different Communication Methods Change with Other Groups of People?
The choice of communication method varies based on the people involved and the context of communication. Consider how the same message may sound different when communicated between two professionals in a formal email compared to a conversation between close friends. The formality and tone of communication adapt to the audience and purpose. You can learn more about these methods when understanding communication in the workplace.
Furthermore, communication methods may adjust based on the recipient’s level of understanding. For instance, when conducting a training course for beginners, language is simplified, and visual aids are often employed to facilitate an easier understanding.
1. Verbal Communication
Verbal communication relies on spoken language to convey messages and can occur in various formats:
- Face-to-Face: Direct interaction with others in the same physical location is often the preferred method, but it may not always be practical due to time constraints or geographical distances.
- Online Communication: Verbal communication has seamlessly transitioned to online platforms. Video calls, video conferences, and voice messages have become integral tools for remote communication.
- Formal and Informal: Verbal communication can be both informal, like casual conversations with friends, and formal, such as work meetings, interviews, conferences, lectures, or oral presentations. Effectiveness depends on factors like the receptiveness of the recipient, speech clarity, volume, pitch, and the speed of delivery.
In a business context, verbal communication plays a pivotal role:
- Storytelling: It helps construct shared meanings within an organisation, conveying key values and cultural norms.
- Crucial Conversations: High-stakes communications, like presenting a business plan or requesting a pay raise, require skill, reflection, and careful planning.
Common types of verbal communication in the workplace include in-person meetings, virtual meetings, phone calls, verbal presentations, training sessions (virtual, in-person, or video), brainstorming sessions, feedback meetings, and performance reviews. Sometimes, with the wrong form of verbal communication applied, can lead to conflict in the workplace. In which case, it is always better to understand the individual’s mindset and context of the conversation beforehand.
2. Non-Verbal Communication
Non-verbal communication involves understanding each others’ thoughts and emotions. It includes various elements, such as:
- Facial Expressions: Facial expressions, like smiles or frowns, can instantly reveal your feelings and set the tone of the conversation.
- Eye Contact: Maintaining eye contact conveys engagement, authenticity, and honesty. Avoiding eye contact or frequent gaze shifts may signal discomfort or dishonesty.
- Body Language: Your posture, gestures, and overall body movements send subtle signals that complement your words. Crossing your arms may appear defensive, while open body language invites connection.
- Tone of Voice: Paralanguage is made up of the style of speaking, tone, pitch, and voice quality. It influences how your words are received.
Effective non-verbal communication strengthens your ability to make a positive impression, especially in professional settings like work meetings or job interviews. To ensure effective non-verbal communication:
- Be mindful of your movements, gestures, and eye contact.
- Avoid closed-off postures like crossed arms.
- Steer clear of excessive fidgeting, which can distract your listener.
- Maintain appropriate eye contact without staring or rolling your eyes.
- Pay close attention to facial expressions, as they convey your emotions.
Remember that non-verbal cues can be as crucial as verbal words in determining your success, such as securing a job offer. Non-verbal cues are particularly important when it comes to people on the autistic spectrum; therefore, it is important to have an understanding of autism awareness in the workplace.
3. Written Communication
Written communication, whether in the form of emails, reports, or social media messages, is a critical tool for conveying information clearly and concisely. Effective written communication demands attention to detail, including style, grammar, vocabulary, and clarity.
To ensure that your written communication is effective:
- Aim for clarity and brevity, avoiding unnecessary repetition.
- Pay attention to grammar and vocabulary to maintain professionalism.
- Consider the style of writing, adapting it to the audience and purpose.
- Written communication excels when conveying detailed instructions or when in-person communication is not feasible.
In today’s digital age, written messages, particularly emails, offer the convenience of asynchronous communication. This means you can send a message, and the recipient can respond at their convenience, bridging geographical and scheduling gaps.
In the workplace, effective written communication is essential when communicating with colleagues, managers, or customers. It also serves as a record of interactions, whether for raising concerns, seeking feedback, or documenting completed tasks.
Types of written communication in business may include:
- Text messages
- Digital messages via platforms like Slack or Microsoft Teams
- Training manuals
When writing between colleagues, you must remember that not everyone may understand your tone of voice in which you write, especially those from different backgrounds. In which case, managing diversity in the workplace is an additional skill to learn.
Listening is at the epicentre of effective communication, allowing you to remain engaged with others. Active listening is especially crucial, as it requires a deep understanding and how to respond appropriately.
Actively listening during conversations or team meetings allows you to engage and respond appropriately. However, there may be instances, such as lectures or training sessions, where extended passive listening is required. In such cases, recording the session, if permitted, can be a helpful strategy to revisit and engage with the content later.
Effective listening includes:
- Demonstrating respect and interest in the speaker.
- Being able to retain information.
- Encourage open and honest dialogue.
Listening attentively is vital for building strong relationships, whether in personal or professional settings. If you are learning about coaching and mentoring in the workplace, you can develop your listening skills further to understand how your colleagues act and behave too.
5. Visual Communication
Visual communication involves visual aids to convey messages effectively. This involves various elements, including:
- Drawing: Hand-drawn illustrations and sketches.
- Graphic Design: The use of graphics, images, and layouts to communicate information visually.
- Illustration: Artistic representations to enhance understanding.
- Colour: The strategic use of colours for symbolism or emphasis.
- Typography: Fonts and text styles to convey tone and mood.
- Signs: Visual symbols and signage for clear communication.
- Electronic Resources: Digital tools and resources, such as infographics and videos.
Visual communication can be a powerful means of conveying messages and can sometimes replace verbal or written communication entirely. It’s versatile and creative, benefiting from technological advancements that enable a wide range of possibilities.
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How to Improve Your Communication Skills
Learning about different communication skills is a valuable pursuit that can benefit both your personal and professional life. Here are some practical tips to elevate your communication prowess:
- Active Listening: Pay close attention and truly engage with the speaker. Show that you value their message.
- Body Language: Be aware of your own body language and its impact on others. Also, observe the body language of others to better understand their emotions and intentions.
- Ask Questions and Provide Feedback: Encourage engagement by asking questions and offering feedback. This demonstrates your interest and comprehension.
- Eye Contact: Maintain appropriate eye contact to establish trust and connection during conversations.
- Clarity and Conciseness: Be clear and to the point when conveying information. Avoid unnecessary jargon or complexity.
- Take Notes: Document key points to enhance retention and show your commitment to the conversation.
- Proofreading: Before sending written communication, such as emails or reports, proofread carefully to eliminate errors and ensure clarity.
- Strong Speaking Voice: When delivering presentations or speaking in public, use a confident and clear speaking voice.
- Eliminate Filler Words: Avoid using filler words like ‘like,’ ‘um,’ and ‘so’ as they can undermine the clarity and professionalism of your communication.
- Intentional Non-Verbal Communication: Your body language should align with your verbal communication. Use positive body language to convey confidence, understanding, and engagement.
Whilst you are here, why not learn about netiquette: an online guide to digital manners? Essential knowledge to know when remote working.
The most common type of communication is verbal communication, which involves the use of words to convey messages. This can be face-to-face, over the phone, or via digital means like video calls. However, it’s essential to note that communication is multifaceted, and non-verbal cues, such as body language and facial expressions, often accompany verbal communication and play a crucial role in understanding.
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all “best” communication style, as the effectiveness of a communication style often depends on the context, the individuals involved, and the message’s purpose. However, there are several recognized communication styles, including:
– Assertive: Clear, respectful, and to the point. Often considered the most effective style for many situations.
– Passive: Avoiding expressing opinions or feelings and prioritizing others over oneself.
– Aggressive: Overly forceful, pushy, or hostile.
– Passive-Aggressive: Indirectly expressing negative feelings instead of openly addressing them.
The assertive style is often recommended for its balance and clarity, but the most effective style can vary based on the situation.
Digital communication has become increasingly dominant, especially with the rise of smartphones and the internet. Text messaging, social media, and instant messaging apps like WhatsApp, Telegram, and Messenger are among the most popular forms of communication, especially among younger generations. Email remains a primary mode of communication for business and professional interactions. However, the popularity of specific communication forms can vary based on region, culture, and individual preferences.
Anderson, A., (2022) Netiquette: A Guide to Digital Manners. The British School of Excellence. [online] Available at: https://thebritishschoolofexcellence.com/business-etiquette/netiquette-good-manners-online/ [accessed 19/10/23]