How to communicate effectively? 4 types of communication you can improve on
What is communication?
Communication is an exchange. It’s a two-way passage of transmitting and receiving messages. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, when we attempt to communicate, we are in “a process by which information is exchanged between individuals through a common system of symbols, signs, or behavior.” Simple as it may seem, sharing a message surprisingly often generates communication issues. So, how can you get through with your information effectively? Which soft skills should you put to use to communicate successfully? And finally, what are the four key types of communication, and barriers we stumble upon in the process? Let’s try to reverse-engineer the way we exchange information and find a way to improve our interpersonal competencies.
Importance of effective communication
The aim of communication comes down to composing and forwarding a message that is understandable to the receiver. Strong communication skills open many doors in business and lead to better management and efficient operation. Fortunately, it is possible to refine your interpersonal skills and handle communication obstacles like a pro. Before we answer how to improve interactive abilities, let’s take a closer look at the communication typology.
4 types of communication
In this article, we will focus on the 4 types of communication: verbal, non-verbal, visual, and written. Proper use of all four methods is vital for our work efficiency and professional success, so there is much to gain from developing soft skills. Let’s go through communication forms one by one.
Spoken way of communicating is most commonly used. We use it freely, willingly, and for the most part, intentionally. Verbal communication is fast and efficient but most effective when used thoughtfully. One drawback is that spoken words are fleeting and can be understood differently than intended. For this reason, it might be better to pass important communication in a more lasting manner. But let us get back to the point. How to speak your mind so that the words will reason with their receivers? First of all, try to sound confident. Use your strong but calm speaking voice, and do not rush through the sentences. If you are explaining some intricate matter, break it down into simple passages and avoid industry jargon overload. Besides speaking clearly, be attentive and responsive to your listeners, bond with them in a conversation instead of flooding them with a one-sided stream of words. There are a number of barriers you may come up against when talking to someone, yet most of them can be bypassed if you make sure to follow the above directions. We will get back to the subject of communication obstacles after briefly discussing the remaining ways of information sharing.
Along with spoken communication comes the non-verbal one displayed through facial expressions, gestures, and body language. In the case of non-verbal messages, which are driven by emotions, the information is passed unintentionally. However, it’s possible to train and control your body language to a large extent. Non-verbal communication provides us with complementary insight into the message expressed by the words; hence reading the room is an invaluable skill when trying to understand other people. While talking to someone, please pay attention to their body language, gestures, facial expression, and whether they keep eye contact. Be a mindful listener, try to notice and assess details like talking speed or intonation. All the indirect elements of communication bring plenty of input on a person’s intentions and attitude. We recommend starting with observation and empathic listening to people who make a good impression on you while speaking. Pin down the key behaviors contributing to the speakers’ credibility, try to implement them, and observe the effects.
A prehistoric method of passing information through visual elements has evolved and serves us well through multiple modern formats. Incorporating images in the information exchange process can make it clearer, more concise, and easier to understand. Visual communication is frequently seen as more impactful, as the pictorial representation of the idea stays in your head for longer. Instead of displaying a text-loaded presentation slide, try using an image accompanied by a verbal commentary. This way, you will bring data to life and work on two separate areas of your listener’s brain. As a result, you will get better retention of the provided information. Last but not least, visuals can be used to lighten the mood of the room or introduce a playful interlude between sections of a data-packed presentation.
We tend to communicate in writing when dealing with more formal matters. In cases, we want to ensure that no detail will skip the reader’s attention, as all the information is noted down. Surely, it’s less time efficient than oral communication but more secure; therefore, willingly used in business as it provides a permanent record that could be further used for reference. To play its role and be effective, written communication should follow certain rules, depending on the format. It’s best to clearly state your message in simple words avoiding complexity in your sentences. Be professional and use a suitable tone, depending on the purpose of your writing and its recipient. Written communication is the most time and effort-demanding form of communication, also won’t be the best choice in cases requiring immediate feedback. As most businesses depend on written communication, it is worth investing in an ability that will contribute to your work efficiency.
We have briefly discussed the four methods of communication together with the good practices, so let us now take a closer look at the possible barriers you may face while interacting with your coworkers. It’s crucial to learn how to identify and address the obstructions, or else you may end up with misunderstandings or communication failures that will impact the operation and the team spirit. It used to be tricky when we worked face-to-face in the office; it has been even more challenging since we switched to remote work. So, what are the most common communication barriers we encounter?
- Communication styles. People differ on multiple levels, and it is no different with ways of communicating. Some share information in an expressive and pretty direct way, while others are very formal and specific. Both sides may find mutual communication difficult for opposite reasons. In such cases, the key to understanding is using emphatic listening to connect with the other person.
- Inability to listen to others. It is worth remembering that communication is a two-way passage, so instead of running a monologue, try to listen actively and read the non-verbal signals from your listeners. This way, you can establish mutual understanding between you and your audience.
- Excess of information. Dealing with information overload causes nothing more than frustration. It is hard to comprehend data in huge amounts, so try to dose information thoughtfully.
- Physical barriers. Surprising as it may seem, we deal with more physical obstacles when our contact is limited to conference calls. Setting aside the technical issues and background noises, we lose the chance to read non-verbal communication, reduced only to facial expressions. If possible, arrange face-to-face meetups occasionally to add a human factor to the usual telcos.
- Emotional barriers. These limitations tend to work to our disadvantage, distorting the message we want to convey or interfering with our communication ability. Practicing your emotional intelligence may bring great results in overcoming emotional outbursts and keeping your integrity.
- Language barriers. When working in a multilingual company, it might be hard to understand somebody’s accent. However, it might also happen that you won’t comprehend your native if this person is exceeding industry jargon and abbreviations. For this reason, keep your statements understandable due to the clear structure. When dealing with incomprehensible verbal communication in a foreign language, suggest switching to an e-mail.
- Cultural differences in a multinational business environment. Last but not least, it’s worth noting that communication principles are not universal but marked by cultures of our origins. Be prepared to come across situations that may seem unexpected but are perfectly normal and etiquette compliant to your interlocutor.
Breaking the barriers, refining communication skills
Excellent communication is one of the most required skills on the job market. Effective communication enables smooth and productive cooperation, contributing to building a strong team, so it’s indeed a win-win situation! Being able to state your points clearly and benefit from others’ feedback, you gain business-wise but also build healthy relations with your coworkers. Developing the discussed soft skills will make you a successful communicator and enable you to understand others better and respond adequately. Both during face-to-face interactions and in the online world. There is much to be gained through effective communication; hence, the effort to perfect the skill is a game worth playing.