Do you find yourself running into misunderstandings and confusion when you’re conversing with others? Everyone does from time to time, but careful communication can help make these instances more infrequent.

Different people process information differently and may find themselves preferring one type over another. Some may focus on empathy and emotions, paying attention to how people are feeling. Others are goal-oriented and want to focus on the end result and conclusion as soon as possible. They tend to prefer action over an extended discussion. Then there are analytical types who want to learn and process every factor before making decisions. Regardless of what your preferred style of communication is, you’ll need to learn how to talk or write to others with other styles of conversing.

3 Types of Communication

1. Verbal Communication

two young guys talking to each other

This is one of the most frequently used forms of communication. We use forms of oral communication almost constantly, whether it takes the form of casual conversation, speech, phone call, or a formal board meeting. Verbal communication has the benefit of typically allowing for immediate feedback even though some formats, such as phone conversations, can limit this element.

Interpersonal communication in a casual setting has a spontaneous element which allows people to learn about each other. With minimal restrictions on topics or speaking order, they are able to form relationships and learn more about one another.

In formal settings, this dynamic is greatly reduced. Information, facts, and goals become the focus. While formal settings are extremely useful for efficiently and rapidly disseminate information, they are less personal and can hamper the exploration and discussion of ideas and concepts.

2. Nonverbal Communication

a young girl looking straight to the camera

Body language and facial expressions make up a huge part of face-to-face conversations. So does the tone of voice and inflection. Emotions, reactions, and feelings are largely communicated with unspoken and unwritten cues.

Reading these nonverbal elements of conversation is extremely important. The specific wording of a sentence is often less meaningful than the way it is said.

Take, for instance, a statement such as “good job.” Despite the fact that it is only two words, it can communicate a huge variety of different meanings. Disbelief, sarcasm, doubt, excitement, sincerity and many other reactions and emotions can be conveyed with this phrase simply by changing tone and inflection. Facial expressions and body language can further add to this range of meanings which can be found in even the simplest of sentences.

3. Written Communication

a men writing something on a piece of paper

Unlike spoken language, written words have largely been stripped of accompanying body language and tone. Misunderstandings can easily arise due to misreading the tone of a written message.

Communicating effectively via the written word requires intentional word choice, as well as a working knowledge of how grammar and writing style can convey unwritten feelings and expectations.

Writing allows for a careful reflection on the part of the writer as they craft, review, and revise their statements. It also gives the reader a chance to digest the information at a convenient pace, and to respond after some contemplation has occurred. While texting and live chat formats do minimize the delay between responses, they don’t remove them completely.

4 Skills You Need for Effective Communication

1. Clarity and Concision

When you’re trying to convey a thought, do so in the clearest and briefest manner possible. Don’t take forever to get to the point. Avoid adding unnecessary caveats. Skip over unrelated or superfluous details.

Cluttering up your opinions and ideas with extra elements isn’t just unprofessional-sounding. It also obscures the truly important parts of what you’re saying and also serves to consume time which could be spent communicating productively.

2. Ability to Listen

Being able to express your thoughts is only one half of communicating. Receiving information by listening, reading, and gauging nonverbal cues is also a huge aspect of effective communication.

Ernest Hemingway once said, “I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen.” When you’re on the receiving end of a conversation, do your best to concentrate on what you’re being told. This reduces unnecessary repetition and ensures that the speaker isn’t wasting their time. Give feedback when appropriate to let the speaker know whether or not you’re comprehending what they’re saying.

3. Understanding Feedback

Feedback gives you a glimpse into how the other person is feeling, as well as how well you’re doing at getting your point across. Modifying your conversations to respond to this feedback is important.

It can be tricky to modify or revise your style of conversing mid-conversation. But doing so is important when you need to convince or inform someone, and your current method isn’t working.

Sometimes you may need to explain or caveat a specific element to avoid misunderstandings. Some people may get annoyed with too many details and want to hear the result, while others work best in a fact-rich environment. Paying attention to responses, both verbal and nonverbal, is vital.

4. Keeping Goals in Mind

The communication skills you’ll need vary greatly depending on the situation, people, and goal. Do you need to convince someone of a concept or idea? Are you simply trying to befriend them or have fun? Or is your discussion aimed at finding the best solution or conclusion to a problem or question?

Knowing the purpose of your communication can help you know what is and what isn’t appropriate. Shutting down unnecessary discussion may be appropriate when you’re conveying instructions to co-workers, but rude if you’re having a casual conversation with friends.

Everyone communicates differently, with numerous aspects of personality, experience, and context impacting every conversation. But paying attention to communication styles, goals, and feedback will help you clearly convey what you’re trying to say.

Implementing these skills into your interpersonal communications is important. Communication plays a large role into nearly every aspect and facet of your life. It is a vital part of friendships, effective careers, relationships, and everyday life.

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