Types of Communication and Channels

Within the business community, there are many different ways and types of communication used, from face-to-face meetings to written memos, letters, or emails. When communicating, it’s important to use methods and channels befitting the specific situation and goals of the communication. Depending on these factors, different types and channels may be better suited than others. For example, a manager whose goal is to motivate and connect with their subordinates may choose to communicate orally through the channel of a face-to-face meeting. A manager who needs to communicate a serious issue to a specific subordinate may choose to use written communication through the channel of a letter or memo. Types and Channels of Communication There are three primary types of communication: oral, written, and nonverbal. These types of communication work together to form our experiences and interactions with others in both business and personal spaces. Understanding each type of communication can help you to better hone your communication skills and apply them to business communications in order to positively affect the outcome. Remember, each type of communication has its own place and purpose, none more important than another and all vital to effective communication. Channels of communication are the media used to convey the type of communication. The channels we use are dictated first by the type of communication being used and second by the purpose or intent of the message being communicated. In business, it’s important that the type of communication and the channel chosen are well-suited in order to ensure that the full meaning of a message is conveyed. Failure to communicate through the proper channel may mean that the communication loses part of its impact and thus fails to meet its intent. Oral Communication and its Channels Oral business communication is communication executed through spoken words. The most popular channels through which oral business communication are conducted include face-to-face conversations, telephone conversations, and videoconferencing. Two of these three channels (face-to-face and videoconferencing) also utilize nonverbal communication, but primarily, verbal communication is the focus here. When communicating through these channels, there are a few things that can be done to improve the quality and effectiveness of the communication, including personalizing it to fit the recipient. For example, using the recipient’s name at the start of the communication may help to establish a personal connection with the recipient, thus increasing their investment in the communication. Actively listening to and participating in the communication are also important; ask questions and mirror the person you’re speaking with in order to maintain a clear line of communication and ensure that all messages being communicated are received as intended. These tips are especially important when using the telephone, such as when on a conference call, because the sender and recipient of the communication have very little else to go on than what’s communicated orally. Written Communication and its Channels Written communication is one of the most official means of communication in a business setting. It also has a wider reach and is recognized as a “one-to-many” communication method. One-to-many communications are different than one-on-one conversations because they give the sender of the information the opportunity to reach a greater audience. Written letters, memos, emails, and blogs are all popular channels of written communication, and each provides the recipient with something that oral communication cannot provide: the ability to refer back to the communication. It is this ability that has made the written word invaluable to businesses. Expressing messages in written form also removes some of the personality from the communication, making it more official and focused on the business at hand, rather than forming a connection with the recipient. It is for this reason that many businesses chose to employ the written word in matters of policy and procedure. When communicating using the written word, it is important to be clear, concise, and polite. As with telephone conversations, written communication does run the risk of losing some of the intended message. The recipient of the message, instead of being provided with the whole communication, must infer the intended tone. Use straightforward, clear language to help convey the intended message. Business-appropriate language within written communication is a must; anything less reduces the effectiveness of the communication and diminishes one’s authority. Concision is also important; keep your communication brief by choosing simple words and avoiding redundancies. Nonverbal Communication and its Channels Sometimes, what you don’t say is just as important as what you do; that’s where nonverbal communication comes in. Nonverbal communication includes body language and nonverbal cues. Nonverbal communication in business is most influential when participating in communication via face-to-face meetings and videoconferencing. Both channels allow the parties to participate more fully in the communication. These channels employ verbal and nonverbal messages, which then work together to form a single, cohesive communication. To ensure that your communication is clearly understood, it’s important that your verbal and nonverbal communications complement each other. For example, in a face-to-face business communication with an associate you’ve not met prior, it’s important that your body language is as professional and attentive as your verbal communication. In Western culture, that means appropriate eye contact, a firm handshake, and good posture. Facial expressions are also a key component of effective nonverbal communication. In a business communication, do your best to have an upbeat expression, calm and intent eyes, and relaxed but straight posture. Mirroring your associates’ nonverbal communications is also thought to convey that you’re actively engaged in the communication.