Communication Methods in Business
The world has become smaller in recent years as communication methods in the workplace become more plentiful and far-reaching. While technology makes methods of communication more convenient and swift, if you don’t choose the proper channels of communication the message can be lost. Context can be misread, as sometimes happens in a hastily written text message. A message recipient who isn’t comfortable with technology might not understand how to open an email, while an account representative who needs an order expedited is not likely to wait a week for a letter to arrive in the mail.
Therefore, it’s extremely important to know not only the different communication methods in the workplace, but also when to properly and effectively execute each one depending on your audience and what type of message you are trying to convey. The first step is to identify the ways to communicate business information that humans typically use every day.
Verbal communication consists of the words, sounds, accents and dialects that humans use to communicate. While verbal communication has been around for millennia, and therefore may seem simple, there are many subtleties involved.
In some languages, an inflection on a particular syllable of a word can mean a completely different thing. This makes it extremely important to know what language your recipient speaks so that nothing is lost in translation.
You'll find examples of several methods of communication in this list:
Face-to-face communication is the oldest communication method in business. It is a verbal method. It is also the most efficient and accurate way to get a message across. Face-to-face communication allows a message recipient to take cues from non-verbal communication such as facial expressions, body language and eye contact.
There is still no better way to instill confidence and trust in a business transaction than to look someone in the eye.
Video-messaging platforms such as Skype, GoToMeeting and Facebook Messenger are other methods of communication that have made it easier to communicate with business associates who aren’t in close proximity to each other. The method requires little more than a computer, internet connection and a video camera to connect, and the number of people who can be connected in a meeting are limitless.
While video conferencing does make things easier and faster than, say, using the telephone as a communication method in the workplace, it still has its limits.
Unlike in face-to-face contact, the message recipient only sees what’s on the computer screen, and while they can see facial expressions, they will not see other non-verbal cues like body language or be able to take in the entire background setting. For some people, that can be uncomfortable.
Also, video conferencing is at the mercy of technology. If someone’s computer isn’t working properly, or if an internet connection goes down, crucial time can be wasted in a business meeting. Even worse, a poorly executed video call filled with interruptions can give a prospective client the impression that you are not professional.
Non-verbal communication consists of what we don’t hear when we communicate with someone. A smile, an open hand, a smirk or the wink of an eye can all mean different things. You wouldn’t want to approach a prospective client with crossed arms, for instance, because that can signify that you are closed off to communication.
There are several ways that you can use non-verbal communication as a communication method in the workplace to more effectively send a message, especially if you are doing business in different countries with different customs. However, there are some things to be aware of:
- Touching. Depending on the culture, touching can either be a welcoming gesture or an insult. In the United States, a handshake is considered a gesture of friendship or partnership. In some Asian cultures, two men who are friends walking down the street holding hands is considered common practice.
- Gestures. Certain gestures can be used to send non-verbal messages, but they can also come off as insulting. The common “V” sign, which signifies peace in the U.S., can be quite insulting in countries such as Ireland or South Africa. A thumbs up sign in the Middle East basically means “Up yours!”
- Personal space. While many European cultures tend to give each other plenty of personal space unless they are close acquaintances, business associates in countries such as Italy or the Middle East are more likely to stand closer to each other, or even give hugs as a symbol of business partnership.
This type of communication method in business refers to the act of writing, typing or printing symbols such as letters and numbers to convey information. It can be helpful, because unlike verbal communication, written information leaves a paper trail to be used as a reference.
- Written reports. This is a very common way of using written words to communicate a large amount of information to people, while also maintaining a hard copy for later reference. This is most effective for busy people who may not be good notetakers, or for multitaskers who need to go back and reread the information for clarity.
- Emails. Emails have become one of the most common uses of written communication in business settings today. They are quick, instantaneous and can be received on the go. On the downside, emails can be impersonal and generally don't transmit a large amount of information.
- Mobile communication. Even less formal than emails, texting and mobile messaging on platforms such as Facebook have become a quick way to get information to and from business associates. While it’s definitely a speedy way to transmit information, it’s not a secure way to transmit information and suffers from the lack of non-verbal information cues.
Visual communication is the act of using photographs, art, drawings, sketches, charts and graphs to convey information, and can often be an effective way to break up gray, boring expanses of text in reports or as a way of providing dramatic effect to help make a message clearer.
Visuals are often used as a communication method in the workplace during presentations to provide helpful context alongside written and/or verbal communication. Also, for some people with different learning styles, visual communication can be more effective in helping them understand concepts.
- PowerPoint Presentations. This popular software is an easy-to-use, effective way of delivering lots of information to a group of people in a format that appeals to many people. Colorful graphics and photos can be used to demonstrate points and convey large amounts of information much more effectively than using just text.
- Content Marketing Videos. Content marketing is being used by more brands as a way to attract prospects and transform prospects into customers by creating and sharing valuable free content in the form of informative videos.
- Sketch Drawings. In some situations, it makes much more sense for a visual sketch to help bring across a message. How many car designers have sold the idea of a sports car to an investor using a sharp and colorful sketch of a concept? Architects start the process of building skyscrapers with a few ideas and some colored pencils, and event planners sell the idea of colorful flowers and brightly decorated halls using sketches.