Workplace communication: Master these 4 types to win!

Workplace communication: Master these 4 types to win!
Jobstreet content teamupdated on 22 August, 2023
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Introduction

Being an effective communicator is one of the most in-demand skills in the job market today. Communication refers to exchanging information, ideas, or messages through different channels. It plays a vital role in your life, whether professional or personal.

While at work, you must clarify your thoughts and ideas effectively and understand your colleagues. Based on a report by the NTUC Learning Hub, effective communication is now the most sought-after skill among employers in Singapore. As many as 68% of hirers say it is crucial to business viability.

Secondary students taking their GCE O-level and N(A) level examinations also have to go through a new oral exam to check their communication skills. It’s further proof of Singapore’s desire to produce better communicators.

It’s helpful to understand the different types of communication to help make you a better communicator. They can help improve your productivity, build personal and professional relationships, and even expand your network. There are 4 types of communication: verbal, non-verbal, visual, and written. Each mode of communication has strengths that serve a unique purpose.

Read on to find out how you can use different communication types in the workplace to excel at your job.

Verbal communication

Diverse group actively collaborating and sharing ideas in a bright, open workspace

Verbal communication involves the use of words to convey a message. It’s about spoken language, whether face-to-face, or through telephone calls or video conferencing. It can also involve any other medium that uses language, including written words.

Verbal communication is one of the most common and important types of communication in daily life. It helps you build rapport and relationships, convey emotions, and express complex ideas.

Advantages and disadvantages of verbal communication

Advantages:

  • Spoken communication allows you to get immediate feedback from the receiver. This is crucial in an exchange of ideas, as it helps clarify and improve the message.
  • Verbal communication allows you to express nuances and emotions through tone of voice, word choice, and other vocal cues.
  • Verbal communication helps build rapport and relationships with others. It clearly and immediately expresses your thoughts and sentiments.

Disadvantages:

  • The receiver may misinterpret your message due to differences in tone of voice, accent, and other vocal cues.
  • Recall can be a problem. As verbal communication is temporary, you may be unable to remember everything somebody said. You might also remember something differently from the original message.
  • Other factors like external noise can influence verbal communication. This can affect your ability to hear or understand the message.

How to practise effective verbal communication

There are various forms of effective verbal communication, including:

  • delivering a clear and concise presentation
  • discussing ideas while actively listening and asking questions to clarify the message
  • having a constructive conversation that resolves conflicts
  • using the proper tone of voice to convey your emotions

Here are various strategies to improve your verbal communication:

Active listening

Active listening involves paying close attention to the speaker and understanding their message. Using non-verbal cues like nodding and maintaining eye contact is part of active listening. Repeating the message ensures that you understand correctly, as does using verbal affirmations like “I hear you” or “I see.” Active listening can help build trust and improve understanding.

Practising speaking in public

Public speaking trains you to deliver your message to a large audience confidently and effectively. Speaking in public can help you overcome anxiety and nervousness. It can improve your speaking skills, and help you develop effective communication techniques. You can take part in presentations and meetings at work, or join a public speaking club to enhance this skill.

Using simple and easy-to-understand-terms

Using technical jargon or complex vocabulary can lead to confusion and misunderstanding. Clear and concise language helps ensure that your message is understood.

Using proper vocal cues

Vocal cues refer to the tone, pitch, and volume of the speaker's voice. Using the proper vocal cues can help convey emotion and emphasis. It can also help to maintain the listener's interest. Practise these cues in different contexts to effectively communicate your desired message.

Non-verbal communication

Two girls, warmly embracing in a genuine hug

Non-verbal communication used body language, gestures, and facial expressions to convey a message. It can include tone of voice, eye contact, posture, and hand movements.

Non-verbal communication comes into play when you want to repeat, emphasise, or add nuance to your message. For instance, when your co-worker asks you if you want to take a break, you say “yes” and nod your head. When presenting a crucial solution, you can make a hand gesture to strengthen your point. When you congratulate a friend for their promotion, you can smile, hug them, and even clap your hands at the same time.

Non-verbal communication plays a supporting role in verbal communication. It’s a crucial component of effective communication. It may also be the most complex of the communication types in the workplace.

There are several types of non-verbal communication:

Body language

Whether you’re conscious of it or not, your body language may express more than you let on. Your body language includes gestures, posture, and other physical movements. These actions can send particular messages. You can cross your arms to show defensiveness, or lean forward to show interest and engagement.

Facial expressions

Think of this example: You hear someone express an opinion you disagree with. Even if you may not say anything negative, your facial expression might give you away. Facial expressions help show emotions such as happiness, anger, surprise, and fear. A smile can indicate satisfaction, while a furrowed brow can mean anger or confusion.

Eye contact

Eye contact is essential in non-verbal communication. It’s a visual cue that shows trust, interest, and sincerity. Eye contact shows attentiveness and interest in what another person is saying.

Maintaining eye contact with whoever you’re speaking to can mean you’re engaged in the conversation. Avoiding eye contact can make you seem insincere or even dubious.

Touch

Touch can also help express certain emotions and amplify communication. For example, a pat on the back can show support or approval, while a shove can lead to aggression or anger.

Advantages and disadvantages of non-verbal communication

Advantages:

  • Although non-verbal communication may not be as transparent as verbal communication, it can show emotions more expressively than words can.
  • Non-verbal communication also complements what you say by supplementing and reinforcing verbal communication.

Disadvantages:

  • Non-verbal communication can emphasise cultural differences as much as it can bridge them. Non-verbal cues help you transcend language and cultural barriers, but there are times when they can appear rude because of various nuances.
  • Non-verbal communication may be influenced by cultural contexts, personal biases, and other factors, and can thus be misinterpreted.
  • Some people may be unaware of their non-verbal cues. These cues can lead to confusion and even miscommunication.

How to practise effective non-verbal communication

Improving non-verbal communication can be achieved through various strategies, including the following:

Being aware of your non-verbal cues

Do you fidget when you speak? Do you tend to avoid eye contact? Awareness of these cues is the first step towards improving your non-verbal communication skills.

Observing and interpreting the non-verbal cues of others

Are they averting their eyes when they speak to you? Or are they nodding occasionally and maintaining eye contact? Observing these nuances will help you better understand their message.
Using appropriate body language, facial expressions, and other non-verbal cues

Adapt your non-verbal cues to different settings. For example, smiling and using a friendly tone can make you appear more diplomatic and friendly at work. Avoid non-verbal cues that may communicate hostility or aggression. These can include staring or giving another person the cold shoulder.

Paying attention to cultural differences in non-verbal communication.

Adapt your cues accordingly to avoid misinterpretation or offence. Certain gestures or levels of eye contact may be appropriate in one culture, but not in another. For example, while Singaporeans may be more reserved when it comes to physical touch, other cultures may be more open to it.

Visual communication

Girl confidently teaching in front of the audience

Visual communication involves using images, graphics, and other visual aids to convey a message. These can include charts, presentations, diagrams, photographs, videos, and other visual media.

Visual communication is one of the most important modes of communication when presenting creative ideas and complex data. Creative teams use key visuals and storyboards to present concepts to clients. Researchers and strategists use clear data visualisations to present data and insights.

Great visual communication builds trust and credibility, and will help you win over clients and teammates.

Types of visual communication

Graphic design is creating visual content to communicate information or ideas through images, typography, and other design elements. Such content is crucial in marketing materials and advertisements. People will be more likely to trust a person or company with clear, consistent, and professional branding.

Photography uses visual images to tell a story, convey emotions, or capture a moment. Photographs are used in various platforms such as social media, flyers, billboards, and posters, but they can be useful for any work in any industry. Adding the right photos to your presentation can help you earn approval from your stakeholders.

Videos use moving images and sound to communicate a message or tell a story. Videos can often capture more details than a photograph can. It can be a powerful tool to persuade and inspire your audience. There are countless ways to use video to communicate. For filmmakers and people who work in TV production, a good video reel showcases their best work and helps them get more projects.

Infographics are visual representations of data, information, or knowledge to make complex information easier to understand. As teachers use charts and graphs to explain concepts to their students, you can use infographics to connect with your audience and get their attention.

Advantages and disadvantages of visual communication

Advantages:

  • Visual communication is more engaging and memorable compared to text-based communication.
  • It can simplify complex ideas and make them easier to understand.
  • Visuals can communicate across language barriers and to diverse audiences.

Disadvantages:

  • Visual communication can be open to misinterpretation.
  • People have varying levels of visual literacy or abilities to interpret visual cues.
  • Creating effective visual communication may be more challenging than producing text-based communication.

How to practise effective visual communication

Some industries like marketing, design, and communications rely heavily on visual communication, but it is still something you can use in any profession. Effective visual communication can be seen in the following examples:

Logos

Logos provide a brand’s main identity. It communicates what a brand is and helps it become more easily recognisable. For example, through use of colour, typography and other design elements, a well-designed logo can effectively communicate the identity and values of a brand.

Billboards

Billboards attract a lot of attention. They’re ideal for capturing one’s eye and delivering a message in a high-impact manner. Beyond having great visuals, a good billboard drives sales and engagement.

Posters

Posters for an event or cause help spread awareness while providing important details such as venue, date, and time.

Social media graphics

Graphics on social media are great for drawing in anyone who’s online. Effective social media posts take into account the characteristics of specific platforms, the packaging of content, and the target audience.

Presentations

Presentations can help you communicate an idea better. Graphs and charts help visualise data and make it easier to understand. Again, a well-thought out and visually appealing presentation will help you gain your clients’ or teammates’ interest and trust. No one will believe a creative team whose  deck is cluttered with too many words and unintelligible data.

Now that you know where you can apply effective visual communication, here’s how you can get better at it:

Use clear and simple design elements

This can help others understand your message better. The result may be a minimalist, text-heavy design, or one that uses a few plain block colours to make the message readable.

Avoid clutter and unnecessary information

Clutter only distracts from the main message and may be unsightly. If you have too many details or unnecessary elements on a poster, this could confuse people, too.

Select appropriate colours and typography

Choosing colours and typography appropriate to the visual can help your message stand out and be better received.

Testing the graphic with a focus group or gathering feedback can help identify areas for improvement.

Written communication

A girl sitting at a table with a laptop open in front of her

Written communication involves the use of written language to convey a message. It can mean email, letters, memos, reports, and other written documents.

Types of written communication

  • Business writing – for official communication in a business setting, such as reports, emails, and proposals
  • Creative writing – for literary works, such as novels, short stories, and poetry
  • Academic writing – for academic output such as research papers, essays, and dissertations

Advantages and disadvantages of written communication

Advantages:

  • provides a permanent record of communication that can be referred to later
  • can be edited and revised before sending to ensure accuracy and clarity
  • can reach a large audience all at once
  • allows time for the writer to organise their thoughts and ideas before communicating them

Disadvantages:

  • can be time-consuming and require additional effort to write and proofread
  • tone and intention can be misinterpreted due to lack of non-verbal cues and visual aids
  • can be less personal and less engaging than verbal communication

Examples of effective written communication include:

  • well-written business proposals
  • clear and concise emails
  • engaging novels that engross the reader

How to practise effective written communication

Written communication is a practical skill to have in the workplace. You can continue practising effective written communication through the following:

Be clear and concise

Get to the point. Avoid run-on sentences and write in the active voice. These can help you say what you need to in a straightforward manner.

Use proper grammar and punctuation

Proofread your work carefully to see if you have made any grammar or spelling errors. Did you use the proper punctuation?

Organise your thoughts before writing

It helps to organise your thoughts. Write them in an outline before fleshing out the body of the text, or scribble notes in your notebook.

Seek feedback from others

Don’t be afraid of what others will say. Get feedback from your boss and colleagues. If they have constructive criticism to offer, take it wholeheartedly, as it could help you improve.

Summary

Communication is vital to human interaction. When used in the right situation, each type of communication helps you build trust and rapport with the people you work with.

There are 4 types of communication. Verbal communication involves using words and spoken language. Non-verbal communication involves body language, facial expressions, and other non-verbal cues. Visual communication includes graphic design, photography, and video. Written communication involves written language such as business writing, creative writing, and academic writing.

Knowing when to use these different types of communication can make a big difference in your career and life. Continue to improve your communication skills, and watch your personal and professional relationships flourish!

Ready to succeed in the workplace? Start by creating or updating your profile on JobStreet. Get timely Career Advice and find your dream job by downloading the JobStreet app on the App Store or Google Play .

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

  1. What is the most effective type of communication?
    ⁠The most effective type of communication depends on the context and purpose. Verbal communication may be more effective in some situations, while written communication may work better in others.

    ⁠⁠In general, effective communication involves:
    • ⁠using the appropriate communication type and channel for the message and audience
    • being clear and concise
    • actively listening and responding to feedback
    • considering the cultural and personal background of the audience
  2. How can I improve my communication skills?
    ⁠You can improve your communication skills using different strategies. These include practising active listening, clarifying messages, and being aware of non-verbal cues. You can adapt your communication style to the audience, use appropriate language and tone, and seek feedback from others. Improve your communication skills by finding opportunities to communicate with different people in different settings.
  3. What are some common barriers to effective communication?
    ⁠Common barriers to communicating effectively are language and cultural differences, distractions, and physical obstacles. You can have emotional or personal biases, or lack of clarity in your message. Technology and other communication channels may also become obstacles if not used effectively or appropriately.
  4. How can technology affect communication?
    ⁠Technology can affect communication in various ways, including increasing the speed and reach of communication. It can provide new channels for interaction and remote communication.
    However, technology can also pose challenges to communication, such as reducing opportunities for face-to-face interaction. This can lead to misinterpretation of non-verbal cues and added distractions.
  5. What is the role of non-verbal communication in communication?
    ⁠Non-verbal communication plays a vital role in communication. It can convey emotions, attitudes, and intentions that verbal communication alone often cannot express. Non-verbal cues such as body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice can supplement and reinforce verbal communication. They make the message clearer and more effective.
    Non-verbal communication can also help establish trust and build relationships. You can do this by conveying sincerity, empathy, and interest.

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