Communication is the flow and exchange of information from one place, person or group to another. It involves a sender, a message and a recipient using mediums such as verbal, non-verbal, written and visual. The content of the communication can be anything ranging from ideas, facts, concepts, attitudes and opinions.
Communication skills are essential to speak in front of an audience when engaging in a conversation or discussion. Good communication skills are divided into the following areas;
Physical: the way the speaker uses their body language and expressions,
Linguistic: the use of language and understanding of tone/ formality,
Cognitive: the content is chosen by the speaker and the ability to build on, challenge, question and summarise other’s ideas,
Social and emotional: including others and responding to the audience.
This framework helps the person to work at the starting point of what can be great communication for various situations by integrating classroom culture and values to develop communication skills.
Importance of communication
Communication skills are often categorised as a soft skill or an interpersonal skill where information is shared from one person to another or a group in different ways we communicate. These methods or mediums of communication play an important role in getting our message across to the right target audience.
We use communication every day in nearly all environments. Even a slight head nod represents some level of communication taking place in agreement for a person in front of you or a large group where you might be presenting to an audience. Communication is necessary to build relationships, sharing ideas and managing a team or more. There is no end to how much we communicate in our daily routine. Therefore, learning and developing communication skills can help you streamline the way you work and build a network while refining your interpersonal skills.
Types of communication
There are four main types of communication used daily: verbal, nonverbal, written and visual communication. These types may be used separately or collectively to communicate depending on the message and situation at hand.
1. Verbal communication
The use of language and words to communicate through speaking or sign language is called verbal communication. Verbal does not only account for words to be spoken while communicating, it also adds to sign language being used to explain words or sentences that have a meaning attached to them.
Verbal communication is the most common type of communication used in our daily routine, when presenting in front of a class while giving a lecture, video conferences and phone calls also use verbal communication. Whether talking to a group or a single person, the use of words is important due to its efficiency. Verbal communication also supports written communication which can be misunderstood if not used effectively.
To develop verbal communication skills you must;
- Use a strong, confident tone. Be sure to use a convincing tone that represents how confident you are with your beliefs and ideas so it is easy and clear to understand the message.
- Speak but also listen actively. While using verbal communication you might want to listen actively to what others have to say while presenting and conducting a meeting or even when participating in a conversation. It will help you become a better communicator.
- Use of filler words. Using filler words such as ‘um’, ‘like’ and ‘yeah’ can be comforting and natural when pausing to think about what to say next but it can also distract your audience. So it is better to avoid and limit the use of filler words in verbal communication.
2. Non-verbal communication
Use body language and gestures to convey your message to others. Non-verbal communication can be tricky to understand but it is helpful when trying to understand others’ thoughts and feelings. For example, closed body language such as crossed arms might be a way to tell others that you are nervous or anxious whereas arms on their side or table may mean the person is feeling positive and is open to a conversation.
To develop non-verbal communication skills you must;
- Develop self-awareness. It's better to be sure how your emotions feel physically, throughout the day how you feel ranging from being energised, bored, happy or frustrated. When you master your self-awareness skills you can get a better hold of them while communicating.
- Make an effort. It is good to display your emotions and feelings through gestures to make an effort of displaying positive body language and be open to your surroundings.
- Pick your favourite. Find what works well for you when communicating. If a certain expression gives you a confidence boost and is better for your body language you must practice and make it a part of your communication.
3. Written communication
The act of writing, typing and using numbers to convey information is a part of written communication. Written communication usually acts as proof to all types of communication and is good for record-keeping such as using books, pamphlets, blogs, memos and letters. Emails and chats are common forms of written communication due to their prompt nature of sending and receiving feedback which makes it an effective medium.
To further focus on your written communication you must;
- Be clear and simple. When reading a piece of information it should not be too complex to understand. Your audience should consider written information as a piece of guidance so it is always better to write as clearly as possible.
- Your tone is different. Be careful when you communicate with words. You will be reaching out to a wider audience so there is a cultural and social barrier where you may not be able to cover your communication with a joke, sarcasm or excitement. Try to keep it simple and follow up with verbal communication for more engagement and interaction.
- Read and review. When speaking you can alter your communication as per the situation but while writing it is better to set time aside for review where you can entirely focus on your tone and identify mistakes and opportunities to say things differently.
4. Visual communication
Using photographs, art, charts, infographics and graphs are also means of communicating. Visuals are usually utilised while presenting to provide helpful and engaging content with less use of words. People learn differently and so it is better to have a mix of communication.
To further develop your visual sense of communication you must;
- Get a third perspective. It is better to ask someone to review your visuals and give their point of view on the connection they make with the presentation. Asking for feedback increases relevancy for the audience.
- Consider your audience. Use visuals that your audience can understand and be sure to give time to explain them. The use of offensive and violent graphics is discouraged.
Having a mix of types of communication is usually preferred by people when communicating, presenting or having a conversation to maintain clarity and have a better understanding in general. Therefore, it is better to teach a couple of communication skills to your learners. The application of communication skills depends on the situation and personal preference of the individuals. Communication skills can get better with time by following general guidelines and practice. Ultimately it is a process of learning and engaging with your audience with the most powerful tool of communication used to enhance your ability to communicate efficiently.