Have you ever sent an email that was meant to be funny only to have the recipient misunderstand and respond in an unexpected way? Imagine a customer misinterpreting a message, passing it along broadly, and particularly in today’s sensitive environment, have the message misinterpreted and then result in a negative impact on the organization. Spending extra time to read and re-read written messages before they are sent can help avoid miscommunication. Before sending the message, think it over carefully to confirm it is clear and concise. State facts, avoid opinions and assumptions, and be cautious of tone. Remember, written communications last forever and can be misunderstood later. Messages should be written clearly and simply and include enough context to be understood by both the intended recipients and others who may have access to the communication. When reviewing a message for tone, think about our current environment. Is there a chance the communication may seem “out-of-touch” given current social and economic conditions?
Communication is KEY, especially now. Below are the five most common types of communication.
Five Types of Communication
Verbal communication occurs when we engage in speaking with others. It can be face-to-face, over the telephone, via Skype or Zoom, etc. Some verbal engagements are informal, such as chatting with a friend over coffee or in the office kitchen, while others are more formal, such as a scheduled meeting. Regardless of the type, it is not just about the words but also about the caliber and complexity of those words, and how we string those words together to create an overarching message, as well as the intonation (pitch, tone, cadence, etc.) used while speaking. And when occurring face-to-face, while the words are important, they cannot be separated from non-verbal communication.
What we do while we speak often says more than the actual words. Non-verbal communication includes facial expressions, posture, eye contact, hand movements, and touch. For example, if you’re engaged in a conversation with your boss about your cost-saving idea, it is important to pay attention to both your boss’s words and non-verbal communication. Your boss might be in agreement with your idea verbally, but nonverbal cues—avoiding eye contact, sighing, scrunched-up face, etc.—indicate something different.
Whether it is an email, a memo, a report, a Facebook post, a Tweet, a contract, etc., all forms of written communication have the same goal to disseminate information in a clear and concise manner, although that objective is often not achieved. In fact, poor writing skills often lead to confusion and embarrassment, and even potential legal jeopardy. One important thing to remember about written communication, especially in the digital age, is the message lives on, perhaps in perpetuity. Thus, there are two things to remember: first, write well—poorly constructed sentences and careless errors make you look bad; and second, ensure the content of the message is something you want to promote or be associated with for the long haul.
The act of listening does not often make its way onto the list of types of communication. Active listening, however, is perhaps one of the most important types of communication, because if we cannot listen to the person sitting across from us, we cannot effectively engage with them. Think about a negotiation—part of the process is to assess what the opposition wants and needs. Without listening, it is impossible to assess that, which makes it difficult to achieve a win/win outcome.
We are a visual society. Think about it, televisions are running 24/7, Facebook is visual with memes, videos, images, etc., Instagram is an image-only platform, and advertisers use imagery to sell products and ideas. Think about from a personal perspective. The images we post on social media are meant to convey meaning, basically communicate a message.
All of these are great things to think about before communicating—whatever that may look like!