Types of Communication

Communication may be classified or categorized on several bases:

Based on Level

Levels of communication are:

  • Intrapersonal Communication
  • Interpersonal Communication
  • Group Communication
  • Public Communication

Intrapersonal Communication

It is the language used or thought internal to the communicator. Intrapersonal communication is the active internal involvement of the individual in the symbolic processing of messages. Both the roles of the sender and receiver are assumed by the individual himself and he also provides feedback to herself in an ongoing internal process. It can be useful to envision intrapersonal communication occurring in the mind of the individual in a model which contains a sender, receiver, and feedback loop. 

Interpersonal Communication

It is the level at which communication channels are the medium chosen to convey the message from sender to receiver. Communication channels can be either direct or indirect. Direct channels are those that are obvious and can be easily recognized by the receiver. They are also under the direct control of the sender. Indirect channels are those channels that are usually recognized subliminally or subconsciously by the receiver, and not under the direct control of the sender.

Group Communication

refers to the nature of communication that occurs in groups that are between 3 and 12 individuals. Small group communication generally takes place in a context that mixes interpersonal communication interactions with social clustering.

Public Communication

It’s at the heart of our economy, society, and politics. Studios use it to promote their films. Politicians use it to get elected. Businesses use it to burnish their image. Advocates use it to promote social causes. It’s a field built on ideas and images, persuasion and information, strategy and tactics. No policy or product can succeed without a smart message targeted to the right audience in creative and innovative ways.

Based on Form/Medium

Used Communication can be classified on the basis of the medium employed: 

  • Verbal Communication
  • Non-verbal Communication
  • Meta Communication
  • Formal Communication
  • Informal Communication
  • Downward Communication
  • Upward Communication
  • Lateral Communication
  • Diagonal Communication

Verbal Communication

It means communicating with words, written or spoken. Verbal communication consists of speaking, listening, writing, reading, and thinking. It may further be classified as oral or written communication.

Non-verbal Communication

It includes using pictures, signs, gestures, and facial expressions for exchanging information between persons. It is done through sign language, action language, or object language. Non-verbal communication flows through all acts of speaking or writing. It is a wordless message conveyed through gestures (signs), movements (action language), object language (pictures/clothes), and so on. Further non-verbal communication can be identified by personal space (proxemics), sense of smell (olfactics), and time (chronemics).

Meta Communication

Here the speaker’s choice of words unintentionally communicates something more than what the actual words state. For example, a flattering remark like “I’ve never seen you so smartly dressed” could also mean that the regular attire of the listener needed improvement.

Formal Communication

A formal channel of communication can be defined as a means of communication that is formally controlled by managers or people occupying positions in an organization. The communication flows through formal channels, that is, officially recognized positions along the line in the organization. This ensures that the information flows orderly, timely, and accurate. Any information, decision, memo, reminder, etc. will follow this path.

Informal Communication

Side by side with the formal channel of communication every organization has an equally effective channel of communication which is the informal channel. It is not officially sanctioned, and quite often it is even discouraged or looked down upon. But, then, it is very much there and has been given the name ‘grapevine’ precisely because it runs in all directions-horizontal, vertical, diagonal. As the management experts put it, “it flows around water coolers, down hallways, through lunch rooms, and wherever people get together in groups”.

Downward Communication

The communication that flows from top to bottom is known as downward communication. Any organization has an inbuilt hierarchical system, and in that, in the first instance, communication invariably flows downwards.

Upward Communication

The communication that flows from bottom to top, which is from lower hierarchical level to a higher level, is called upward Communication. The main function of upward communication is to supply information to the upper levels about what is happening at the lower levels. It is just the reverse of the previous dimension.

Lateral Communication

When communication takes place between two or more persons who are subordinates working under the same person or those who are working on the same level, it is called lateral or horizontal communication. A good example of this kind of communication is between functional managers. It is necessary the reviewing the activities assigned to various subordinates having identical positions.

Diagonal Communication

Diagonal or Crosswise communication includes the flow of information among persons at different levels who have no direct reporting relationships. As an example, the Communication between the Training Supervisor and Marketing Manager, regarding the Training of a few employees of the Marketing Department, is Diagonal Communication. This kind of communication is used to speed up information flow, improve understanding, and coordinate efforts for the achievement of organizational objectives.

Based on Context

Based on context, the different types of communication are:

  • Organizational Communication
  • Political Communication

Organizational Communication

Communication is the passing of information and understanding from one person to another at the same level or at different levels. It is the process by which the management reaches others in managing its work. Since managers work through others, all of their managerial functions pass through the bottleneck of communication. One person can initiate the process but he alone cannot complete it. It is completed only when it is received by others.

The effectiveness of management largely depends upon the effectiveness of communication. It is communication that gives life to the organization; so, it can be likened to the lifeblood of an organization.

The communication system serves as the vehicle by which an organization is embedded in its environment. It not only integrates the various sub-units of an organization but also, in a systematic sense, serves as an elaborate set of interconnected channels designed to sift and analyze information important from the environment. It also exports processed information to the environment.

The roles of communication become more critical as the organization grows in size, complexity, and sophistication. So, the system should be adjusted according to the needs of the organization from time to time.

Political Communication

Political communication is a field of communication that is concerned with a political scenario in a country or communication that often influences political decisions and vice-versa.

The area of political communication concerns two main areas:

  • Election Campaign: The campaigning for various candidates during elections is political communications.

  • Government Operations: This role is usually fulfilled by a Ministry of Communications, Information Technology, or similar political entity. Such an entity is in charge of maintaining communication legislation and would be responsible for setting telecommunications policy and regulations as well as issuing broadcasting licenses, comments press releases, etc.

Intercultural Communication

Intercultural communication refers to the communication between people from different cultures. According to Samovar and Porter, intercultural communication occurs whenever a message is produced by a member of one culture for consumption by a member of another culture, a message must be understood. Because of cultural differences in these kinds of contacts, the potential for misunderstanding and disagreement is great. To reduce this risk, it is important to study intercultural communication.

The importance of intercultural communications is increasing due to:

  • Globalisation of World Markets: Doing business beyond our borders is now commonplace. Not only are market borders blurring, but acquisitions, mergers, and alliances are obscuring the nationalities of many companies. As markets expand, national boundaries and national allegiance mean less and less.

    What has happened is globalization of markets where world tends to act as one marketplace. In this global marketplace, more and more markets are opening to worldwide competition enabling businesses to look for new growth opportunities for their goods and services. To be successful in this interdependent global village, companies are finding it necessary to adapt to other cultures.

  • Technological Advancements: Amazing new transportation and information technologies are major contributors to the development of our global interconnectivity. Supersonic planes now carry goods and passengers to other continents overnight. Equally significant in creating the global village are incredible advancements in communication technologies.

    The Internet now permits instantaneous oral and written communication across time zones and continents. People in companies use high-speed data systems to transfer and exchange information and plans instantly with their counterparts in foreign locations. The new communication technologies allow teams from all over the world to work on projects and share information without leaving their desks. At the same time, advanced technologies allow manufacturers to produce their goods in foreign locations that offer abundant supply of low cost labour.

  • Multicultural Workforce: As world commerce mingles more and more, another trend gives intercultural communication increasing importance. People are on the move. Lured by the prospects of peace, prosperity, education or a fresh start, persons from many cultures are moving to countries promising to fulfill their dreams.

    As a result, today’s workforce is increasingly made up of people who differ in race, gender, age, culture, family structure, religion, and family background. Such cultural diversity affects how business messages are conceived, planned, sent, received, and interpreted in the workplace.

  • Understanding Culture: Every country or region within a country has a unique common heritage, joint experience, or shared learning. This shared background produces the culture of a region, country, or society.

    For our purposes, culture may be defined as the complex system of values, traits, morals, and customs shared by a society. Culture teaches people how to behave, and it conditions their reactions. Intercultural communications helps in understanding various cultures.

Educational Communication

This type of communication relates to the field of education. It involves any type of communication flows, levels, systems that lead to acquisition and imparting of learning.

Example: A teacher, teaching in a class or a student giving a presentation in a class, etc.

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