Types Of Communication (With Examples)

By Chris Kolmar
Sep. 21, 2022

Find a Job You Really Want In

Every job requires some form of communication. Whether you’re a farmer, a writer, a software engineer, or a construction worker, our interconnected economy relies on effective communication to achieve your vast array of needs and wants.

You may not even realize how often you use communication at your job. This is because there are different types and characteristics of communication, some of which are more subtle than others. As such, they all play important roles in your professionalism and success in the workplace.

Key Takeaways:

  • The four types of communication are written, verbal, nonverbal, and visual.

  • The four communication styles are passive, aggressive, passive-aggressive, and assertive.

  • Improve your communication by assessing your strengths and weaknesses, practicing, and performing active listening.

  • The best communicators are clear, concise, empathetic, and engaging.

Types Of Communication (With Examples)

Importance of Communication

When you ask hiring managers and recruiters, communication consistently ranks as the the most important soft skill for a job candidate to possess. It’s the first step to understanding someone else and being understood.

In the workplace, communication is important because:

  • It is necessary to be productive. A company cannot move forward with its plans without understanding the problems and goals at hand.

    When communication breaks down, it can result in detrimental errors, cause more problems, and put your job in jeopardy. It takes your ability to communicate with others to figure out what needs to be done and how that should be accomplished.

  • It builds relationships. Communication is also key to the development of relationships. Much like your friends and family, your professional relationships are nurtured by how you and your coworkers understand each other.

  • It helps to create a healthy workplace. A healthy work environment will have a healthy sense of communication between employees where everyone feels they will be listened to and are open to other people’s thoughts.

For your own benefit, practice and develop your communication skills. This will make you a better employee, which in turn opens up more opportunities.

If you’re actively seeking a job, your communication skills will be a big asset for landing a job. In either case, your peers and supervisors will recognize an ability that is greatly appreciated and desired.

Now, let’s break down communication into its four main categories and examine how each can be used best.

What Are the Four Types of Communication?

The four types of communication are:

  • Written

  • Verbal

  • Nonverbal

  • Visual

Note that some methods of communication may make use of two or more types of communication at once. For example, consider a memo with written content and graphical elements, or a speech where the speaker’s body language acts to emphasize their spoken message.

Written Communication

Written communication is any communication that involves the written word.

It occurs every day in email and text exchanges. It also appears when companies send out memos, reports, invoices, and newsletters. To get a job, you have to use your written communication skills for your resume and cover letter.

In fact, it is in your resume and cover letter that your potential employer gets a first glimpse of your writing skills.

Written communication is when you put ideas into words and numbers. One of its greatest strengths is that written communication can be kept as a permanent record. This is important to understand and be mindful of because what you write down can be shared and viewed by many others.

In fact, written communication can take place over long periods with many people involved. A simple text chat can go back and forth between two people, an email chain can be shared with several coworkers over the course of a week, and a book can be read by thousands of people years after it was written.

For successful professional written communication, there are several qualities you should strive to perfect:

  • Tone. Be aware of your tone. Unlike in other forms of communication, your tone in writing may not always be understood. Jokes and sarcasm, in particular, are extremely difficult. Unless you feel very comfortable with your coworkers and are willing to chance your remarks to be misinterpreted, it is better to err on the side of caution.

    Remember, your words could be kept on permanent record and could come back to haunt you. In general, in professional writing, your tone should be direct and cordial. This will keep the discussion focused.

  • Clarity. No one is impressed if you use big words or a lot of words for no reason. It does not necessarily make you look more knowledgeable, but in fact, it can only serve to aggravate and confuse who you’re talking to. Respect people’s time and comprehension abilities. Write in clear, direct statements and avoid technical jargon when possible.

    If you need to go in-depth, consider your audience, and explain in the most focused manner possible. A good tip is to make sure your written communication has structure. Have a logical flow to your information and use as few words as possible while ensuring the message is clear.

  • Revision. With tone and clarity in mind, review what you write before you send it out. In professional scenarios, you want to represent yourself as an effective communicator. Take as much time as appropriate to review your work. If it’s possible, ask for someone else to read your writing to get an outside perspective.

Verbal Communication

Verbal communication is achieved through the spoken word. It can occur over a short distance, such as in a conversation or lecture, or a long-distance, such as a teleconference or a phone call. Generally, there is little to no time delay. However, it is possible to have a situation where voice recordings are being sent and listened to later.

Verbal communication is great because it is the most natural choice for us. A conversation can sometimes be the fastest way to convey information since people’s reactions occur in real-time. However, in professional settings, you want to be aware of how your verbal communication comes across. It particularly focuses on:

  • Tone. Be mindful of your audience. A casual conversation with coworkers will have a different tone than a presentation to board members. Avoid any inappropriate language or topics.

  • Clarity. Like in written communication, the clarity of your spoken words will impact how you are understood. The best way to be clear is to speak in a confident voice that can be easily heard in whatever environment you find yourself in.

  • Listen. Verbal communication contains a lot of back and forth between its participants. Unfortunately, many do not listen when in conversation. Instead, they focus on what they plan to say next.

    To stand out, use active listening. Engage and be present with the other speaker and reflect on what is said to show you are listening.

Nonverbal Communication

Nonverbal communication is the most subtle form of communication. You may not even realize the scope of how nonverbal communication can affect a conversation.

It involves the use of body language and space to assert thoughts and feelings in unspoken ways. Due to this, nonverbal communication is generally associated with verbal in-person communication.

Nonverbal communication is important because its impact can directly alter how your words are interpreted by an audience. It is based on your eye contact, facial expressions, gestures, postures, and distance. All the factors add up to define your nonverbal communication.

Poor nonverbal communication can reduce and even negate the impact of your other forms of communication. For example, you may give a speech that hits all the marks of good written communication. It may be a concise, logical argument. However, if you speak with your head down, with a scowl, and are dressed poorly, your words will likely be ignored.

Similarly, suppose you are in a conversation with a coworker, and you try to give multiple compliments while also standing too close to the other person. In that case, you may think you are friendly, but they may find you invasive and get upset.

Nonverbal communication should complement the corresponding verbal and/or written communication to be successful. Consider the following tips to help you improve your nonverbal communication:

  • Be self aware. A lot of nonverbal communication is the result of our internal thoughts and feelings. If we are sad or angry, our body is likely to show that regardless of the words we say.

    Therefore, it is important for you to register how you feel. With this awareness, you can then manage your nonverbal communication better.

  • Be appropriate. Your nonverbal communication should appropriately match whatever message you are communicating. When done correctly, it will reinforce your message and make a stronger impact.

    For example, a friendly conversation met with an open body stance and personal space that is neither too close nor too far away is much appreciated.

  • Mimic. If you are not sure how to behave, mimic the people around you. This allows you to fit in and put others at ease. Don’t go overboard and copy everyone exactly but use their behavior as a baseline for your own actions.

Visual Communication

Visual communication is when you use images to convey a message. We see visual communication all the time in the forms of billboards, memes, infographics, and tables of data content.

They are extremely useful ways to quickly address an audience and are very helpful for visual learners and diverse audiences who speak different languages.

In the workplace, visual communication is a great way to amend a presentation or to highlight crucial information in a document. However, you must consider certain aspects that make visuals an appropriate tool, like all other forms of communication. These include:

  • Appropriate placement. Don’t overdo the visuals. Too many visuals become white noise after a while, and you might as well use text at that point. Also, make sure your visuals are appropriate to the topic and for the audience.

  • Aesthetics. Make sure your visuals are pleasing to the eye. For example, graphs should be organized in such a way that it clearly communicates the data. Consider how warning labels and street signs make their purpose immediately known.

If you are not sure about your visuals, ask for feedback. A peer can quickly tell you whether they understand the message because accessibility is the greatest strength of visual communication. Visual communication should get the point across in a very obvious manner.

If you have a creative personality, you may want to consider visual communication in the workplace. It can act as an inspired outlet for your interests, and it is possible that your peers and supervisor will recognize this talent.

Types of Communication Styles

Just as there are four types of communication, there are also four types of communication styles:

  1. Passive. Passive communicators are more prone to listen to others and accept suggestions without much pushback or even input. They might seem indifferent, but when a passive communicator actually does care about the topic, they tend to build up resentment towards others. This failure to communicate their needs or wishes can lead to a lot of misunderstandings.

    Passive communicators may also display some issues with nonverbal communication, as they fail to make or maintain eye contact or appear deferential in other ways. These are the people who have a very tough time saying “no” to any request.

    On a positive note, passive communicators are typically easy to get along with since they rarely express contrary opinions and tend to avoid conflict. They also make great active listeners when people just need to vent without getting input.

  2. Aggressive. Aggressive communicators tend to dominate conversations and speak in a demanding way. Their body language is typically very alpha-male in appearance and eye contact is maintained more for an intimidating effect rather than as a way of showing attentiveness.

    Note that aggressive communicators aren’t always horrible bullies. Sometimes they’re effective managers, leaders, and coaches who demand the best from their subordinates and often achieve better results because of these tactics. It’s just that they’re usually not used to being told “no” and so can be difficult to work with as a result.

  3. Passive-aggressive. We’re all familiar with passive-aggressive behaviors and words. People who communicate passive-aggressively usually wish they could speak just plain aggressively, but are held back by a lack of sufficient status, position, or confidence to challenge others.

    They may also be passive communicators who have simply had too much resentment boil up over time. These people try to subvert others by rumor-mongering, sabotage, and other childish high school-style means of revenge.

    Passive-aggressive communication is an attempt to express a legitimate need or desire through very silly and indirect methods.

  4. Assertive. This is the communication style we all strive for. It’s direct without being rude and considerate without being subservient. Assertive communicators know what they want and how to express it in an honest way that takes into account how listeners might feel about the topic.

    “I” statements are a big part of assertive communication. By focusing on how you feel and not assuming how others feel, you take ownership of your behavior and words without blaming anyone else.

    Assertive communicators also know when to say “no” to a request or stand their ground in a debate without being unprofessional about it.

Tips To Improve Your Communication

Communication is a skill that can always be improved. Great professionals are also great communicators and even some of them had to work on their skill. Whether or not you feel you are good at communication, consider the following:

  • Know your strengths and weaknesses. The first step to improve is knowing where to begin. Whether it’s through self-evaluation or feedback from another person, you want to make sure you have an honest perception of your communication abilities.

    Be aware of what area you want to work on. It might be that you need to work on one particular type or style of communication, or it may be a general need to learn how to communicate better.

  • Find a way to practice. If you want to improve your communication, you’ll want to put your skills in action. However, you will want a safe environment where you can feel free to make mistakes. For example, if your written communication is poor, perhaps work on writing emails to friends and family.

  • Observe others. Think about who are the best communicators and watch how they act. You may notice that they are really good at being clear, concise, and empathetic with their audience.

  • Practice active listening. Listening is half of communication. You need to know to whom you are communicating. This requires you to listen carefully and understand the needs and wants of your audience.

Communication is critical to a healthy and successful professional life. Work at your communication as much as possible and continually check in with yourself to see how you are doing. Don’t take communication for granted. There is probably something you can be working on.

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Chris Kolmar

Chris Kolmar is a co-founder of Zippia and the editor-in-chief of the Zippia career advice blog. He has hired over 50 people in his career, been hired five times, and wants to help you land your next job. His research has been featured on the New York Times, Thrillist, VOX, The Atlantic, and a host of local news. More recently, he's been quoted on USA Today, BusinessInsider, and CNBC.

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