Four Types of Communication

by Kimberly A. Laux; Updated September 26, 2017

Communication affects every aspect of life—from how we are socialized to the brand of shampoo we use. In his text “Human Communication: The Basic Course,” Joseph DeVito defines communication as “the act, by one or more persons of sending and receiving messages that are distorted by noise, occur within a context, have some effect and provide an opportunity for feedback.” Our challenge is to become more competent communicators—interacting in a way that is appropriate and effective.

Interpersonal Communication

Interpersonal interaction, some times referred to as dyadic communication, usually occurs one-on-one or between a limited number of people. Most research on the interpersonal level focuses on communication between friends, family, romantic partners and other significant others, although it could also occur in a more formal setting with someone the communicator does not know well. To be competent in this area, you should understand the implications of self disclosure and how to manage conversation.

Small Group Communication

Much of our professional life takes place in small groups, as we often play a role in work teams, committees, boards or other collections of people. However, simply working alongside three other people does not technically qualify you as a small group. The people involved must perceive themselves as a group; they must feel a common connection and intentionally communicate with one another. Leadership, group roles and managing conflict are important at this level.

Public Speaking

Since before 500 BC, people have used public speaking as a means of persuasion. Today, public speaking continues to thrive as the dominant form of communication in several facets of society—religion, education, politics, government and law. Competent speakers must be able to present accurate, ethical information in a compelling way while appealing to the logic and emotions of their audiences. According to a study by BH Spitzberg and WR Cupach, approximately 40 percent of the population reports public speaking anxiety and shyness at such an intensity that it interferes with their quality of life.

Mediated Communication

Mediated communication includes messages that pass through a channel outside of the sender and receiver. Examples include traditional mass media (print, radio, television, film) as well as digital devices (smart phones, MP3 players, computers). As technology evolves, media has become much more integrated and communicators must know how to use it properly. This includes identifying the best way to reach an audience and stand out among the flurry of competing messages.

Becoming a Competent Communicator

To improve communication competence, you must be motivated to alter current ways of communicating, learn more about the communication process and develop skills by putting your knowledge into practice. Not only will you be able to “send the right message,” you will also better understand the messages you receive. The end result is increased self confidence and stronger relationships that improve both your professional and personal life.

About the Author

For more than 12 years, Kimberly Laux has written features for several print and online publications, including "The Flint Journal," "Real Detroit Weekly," "FAITH" and university websites. She earned a master's degree in communication and teaches at the University of Michigan-Flint. Laux is certified through the American Council on Exercise.