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People use communication every day, whether this be at home, in the workplace, or in a social setting. Communication is necessary when building relationships with people and sharing ideas.
In the workplace, it is vital to have good communication skills and many employers will seek out candidates with proven communication skills, therefore it is always useful for you to include your communication skills on your CV and discuss this in a job interview.
When people think of communication and what this means, many people only think of verbal communication and may not consider that this is just one aspect of communication. There are various different methods of communication.
This includes verbal communication, non-verbal communication, listening, written communication and visual communication. Research has shown that non-verbal cues and body language, facial expressions and tone of voice account for almost 55% of all communication.
What is communication?
Communication is about sharing information from one person to another person or a group of people. Every type of communication method involves at least one sender and a receiver. It is complex, as effective communication can be affected by a range of things.
- Our emotions.
- The cultural situation.
- The medium used to communicate.
- Our location.
This is why good communication skills are considered to be so desirable by employers around the world, as accurate, effective, adaptable and unambiguous communication skills are hard to find.
For tips on how to improve your communication skills in the workplace, Find Courses UK offer some useful information and resources.
Communication has three parts:
- The sender.
- The message.
- The recipients.
The recipient decodes the message, and as there may be more than one recipient, this means that each one may receive a slightly different message. This may be due to the recipients’ experience and understanding of the subject, how well they know the person communicating, and their psychological state or how they feel. They may simply just read different things into the choice of words or body language of the person sending the message.
There may also be barriers to communication to consider, for example English may be their second language or they may have a hearing impairment. Successful communicators will be able to understand and anticipate any of these potential sources of misunderstanding and seek to address them.
Receiving feedback is also another important aspect of communication as this is how the recipient lets the sender know that they have received and understood the information. Recipients of the message have the opportunity to provide feedback as to how they understood the message, and this can be done through both verbal and non-verbal reactions.
Experienced communicators will pay close attention to the feedback they receive in order to ensure that the message has been received as intended, and this can allow for further explanation and clarity if needed.
Businesses will often need to think about using various methods of communication with both their workforce and their customers in order to be successful. They will need to consider how, where and when to address their audiences and which method of communication they are going to use.
This will be different depending on the size of the organisation, the type of audience they are reaching out to and what their message is. During business meetings it is important to ensure that these are organised well with a clear agenda for communicating information and to give the opportunity for interaction, questions and responses from employees.
You can find further information about how to organise a business meeting by visiting our knowledge base.
What are the different methods of communication?
There are different methods of communication, and these include:
- Verbal communication.
- Non-verbal communication.
- Written communication.
- Visual communication.
The way in which you communicate depends on who you are communicating with, and the purpose of this communication. Different communication methods are suited to different situations and you can decide which is most appropriate for conveying your message and communicating most effectively.
How are different methods of communication used?
There are several different ways individuals communicate with each other.
The main types of communication people use on a daily basis are:
Each one can be important in different ways and they are often used together. For example, non-verbal communication is used alongside verbal communication with the use of facial expressions, body language, hand gestures and head nodding.
Verbal communication can be used in a variety of ways. This includes communicating on a one-to-one basis or in a group setting. Verbal communication can take place in person, over the telephone, by video conference or voice message. Verbal communication is also used on television, social media and news outlets.
Written communication can be useful in a variety of ways both in a formal and informal setting. This can include letters, legal documents, reports, emails and social media.
How do communication methods change with different groups of people?
Methods of communication will change depending upon the people who are communicating with each other and the context of that communication. For example, an email between two professional people would sound different compared to an email between two friends, as the formality and tone would differ.
Communication methods may also change depending upon the understanding of the subject matter by the person receiving the message. For example, if there was a training course for beginners, the language would not be as complex and more visual aids may be used.
Verbal communication is when we use the spoken word to communicate with others. This can be face to face with another person or group of people, or over the telephone or video call, for example Skype or Zoom. Face-to-face verbal communication is usually the preferred method of communication; however, it is not always realistic due to time constraints or the location of people.
During the Covid-19 pandemic people have had to adapt in the way they communicate, and a lot of verbal communication has moved online via video calls and video conferences.
Verbal communication can be informal, for example casually chatting with a friend, or it can be a more formal process such as a work meeting, interview, conferences, lectures or oral presentation. How effective the oral communication is will depend upon the receptiveness of the receiver, speed, volume and pitch of the words and clarity of speech.
Non-verbal communications are also an important part in aiding verbal communication such as visual cues and body language.
In a business sense, verbal communication can include:
- Storytelling – This helps in the construction of common meanings for people in the organisation. It can help employees understand key values of the organisation and to understand how things are done.
- Crucial conversations – These are high stake communications and not simply general workplace discussions. This may be presenting a business plan or asking for a pay rise. These types of communication involve skill, reflection and planning.
In the workplace you need strong verbal communication skills. Using speech to communicate is an efficient way to share information with others.
Non-verbal communication helps you get a sense of how others are feeling and what they may be thinking. Non-verbal communication includes facial expressions, eye contact, hand movements, touch and posture.
These things usually provide reinforcement to verbal communication. Non-verbal communication is not usually used on its own without verbal communication except when a person is using sign language.
Physical non-verbal communication consists of body posture, eye contact, facial expressions, touch, and overall movements of the body and tone of voice. All non-verbal communication helps to convey a message to the person or people you are communicating with.
If you are wanting to make a good impression, for example in a work meeting or a job interview, it is important to consider your non-verbal communication style. This involves being aware of things like your movements, gestures, eye contact, and the way you stand or sit.
You should also consider whether you cross your arms as this can make you appear closed off or angry, and fidgeting can be distracting for the person you are communicating with.
You should make good eye contact but you should avoid staring or rolling your eyes. One of the most important aspects of non-verbal communication is facial expressions as these can be the most useful in telling the person you are communicating with how you are feeling.
For example, a smile can make it clear that you are happy and a frown can suggest that you are unhappy. Good non-verbal communication can determine whether you get a job offer or not.
Non-verbal communication is also about the way something is said. This consists of style of speaking, tone, pitch and voice quality. This is known as paralanguage. Being an affective communicator means considering tone of voice, facial expressions and body language as well as the words you speak.
Written communication might be a letter, email, a report, or a message on social media. Written communication should aim to get your message across in a clear and concise manner.
Too much written information that may be repetitive or unnecessary will likely lose the engagement of the reader and may not get your point across in the best way possible.
How effective the written communication is will depend upon the style of writing, grammar, vocabulary, and the clarity. Written communication is useful for something requiring detailed instructions, or when someone is too far away or they are not available for you to talk to them.
Written communication in the form of emails can be convenient in that you do not need to wait for someone to become available or attempt to match your diaries. You can send the email and they can read and respond when they are available to do so.
When thinking about communicating in writing, it is important to remember that in the digital age, your piece of writing is likely to be there for people to see for a long time after you have written it. It is therefore important to ensure that the spelling and grammar is correct and that you are happy with the content.
In the workplace, it is important to be able to communicate in writing. This may be to colleagues, managers or customer. Being able to communicate well in writing is important in order to do well in a business setting.
Written communication also provides evidence for you that a conversation has taken place. This may be because you are raising concerns about something or you may be simply requesting some feedback or informing someone of a task you have completed.
Cambridge English UK offer a free guide to help you improve and practice your writing skills.
Actively listening is one of the most important parts of communication, as if we actively listen we can truly engage with the person talking to us. If you do not listen during a conversation or a team meeting, for example, then you cannot engage or respond appropriately.
Sometimes it can be difficult to sit and listen for long periods of time when you are not expected to engage or where there is no opportunity to engage. This may be in a lecture or a training session. Some people choose to record the session in these instances, if this is allowed.
Visual communication can take place with the help of visual aids.
This can include things like:
- Graphic design.
- Other electronic resources.
Visual communication such as graphs and charts can be useful in written communication and sometimes can replace it completely. Visual communication can be a very powerful way of getting a message across and can be more powerful than verbal and non-verbal communication. Visual communication is much easier and more varied now due to the developments in technology. This also means that visual communication can be much more creative.
Visual communication is all around us whether that be on the television, social media or advertising campaigns. Advertisers use it to sell products or give us a certain message.
How to improve your communication skills
There are a number of things you can do in order to improve your communication skills; these include:
- Actively listen – This means paying attention and truly listening.
- Body language – This means being aware of your own body language and how this comes across to other people and also being aware of the other person’s body language.
- Ask questions and provide feedback – This ensures engagement from you as the receiver of the message.
- Make eye contact.
- Be clear and to the point.
- Take notes.
- Proof read before sending anything in writing.
- Use a strong, confident speaking voice – Particularly important when you are doing a presentation.
- Avoid using filler words – ‘Like’, ‘um’ and ‘so’ are all filler words and should be avoided where possible.
- Be intentional about your non-verbal communication – Make an effort to display positive body language. You should use body language to support your verbal communication, for example if you feel confused or unhappy.