As we continue our journey into the inner reaches of the mystery of communication (what communication is, how it works, how it breaks down, what we can do to fix it, and how we can learn better communication skills), we come to realize that there is more than one way to communicate. In fact, the internet is full of searches for “the 3 (or 4, or 5, or 7, or 12.5) types of communication”.

What does communication mean to you?


When we think about the term “Communication”, what comes to mind? When asked, people tend to talk about all the ways that we communicate such as with writing, speaking, with the various parts of our bodies, the tone in our voices, our expressions, and so forth. Many will start describing the cycle of communication. What struck me as interesting when watching some videos of people answering the question “What does communication mean to you?” is that everyone has the same basic idea of what communication is, but each of the people on the videos placed a different significance on the act of communicating.

All of the participants placed a high value on knowing how to communicate well. Some viewed it as a great skill to have for business. Others saw it as necessary for the development of relationships in general. Still others felt a deep connection to the act of communicating as a mean of creating deep connections with the world around them.

Some of the video participants saw communication as a means to an end – impersonally and advancement-focused, while others saw it as a means to share their feelings with the world – on a personal level and me-centered. Other people who responded were more focused on serving others and came from a place focused outward.

As we discussed in our last post, these personal understandings of communication and the focuses of each of the respondents fall under the Internal Influences category and have an effect on how their communication cycles will work.

So many questions about communication

With the concept of communication having so many variables; so many varied understandings of what it is, what it does, and how it should be used; and with so many levels of focus in its use, is it any wonder that the act of communication is still a mystery to us?

Yet, sadly, when I searched the internet for what people ask about types of communication, most of the search responses revolve around types of interview questions and how to communicate effectively in a business interview.

My searches yielded no questions about how to communicate with each other on a personal level until I got specific about searching relationship questions. These questions reveal that we have a deep need to know what a healthy relationship looks like and that we are looking for quick and easy ways communicate effectively, find “the right one”, and solve all our relationship problems. We’ll talk about this in other posts.

My take-away from my search endeavors is that we have become (or returned to being) a society focused on survival in the physical and material sense – so much so that we have lost touch with the fact that our survival as humans depends on our having good-quality personal communication as well. Somewhere inside us we know we need personal connections or else why would we search so desperately for help in finding new personal connections and fixing the ones we have?

Yet, in our scramble to make ends meet and try to make a better physical life for ourselves and those we love, it is easy to take that personal side of our lives for granted, to assume that it will take care of itself and be there when we are ready to focus on it. Here is where we need to start paying attention to the ways in which we communicate and realizing the actual messages we are communicating whether we intend to or not, because, while we’re busy “doing our thing” and taking our time about focusing on our personal connections and communication skills, the other people in our lives (those we have taken for granted) are busy with their own personal growth and just may not wait for us to get our acts together. We may end up taking too long to correct the messages we’re sending to those we love, which could drive them away.

What does society say about types of communication?

So, when it comes to classifying the types of communication that we use, there are plenty of opinions out there as to what they are. There are those who say there are 4 types – verbal, non-verbal, written, and visual. Others say there are 10 types broken into various symbols, gestures, expressions, and so forth. Further others classify the types of communication based on a person’s role (management, team member) or the place in which communication happens.

This may seem ridiculous at first. Upon closer inspection – with so many variables and working parts involved in the communication cycle, and the fact that no two people think in the same manner exactly – it is easy to see that a multitude of options would present themselves.

So, what are the types of communication?

Communication Types

Clearing away all the labels and looking at the various lists as a whole, what emerges is that there really are only two types of communication. Linguistic and Non-Linguistic.

By Linguistic Communication, I mean the words you speak. Period.

By Non-Linguistic Communication, I mean every other method of communicating. This includes:

  • the words you do not speak
  • written language and other symbols we use to communicate
  • artistic expression
  • any signals we give using our bodies such as
    • crossing our arms
    • the physical distance we allow or leave between ourselves and those communicating with us
    • the clothes we wear
    • whether we respond or react and how we do so
    • facial expressions
    • tone of voice and inflection
    • sounds and utterances
    • touching
    • gestures …
  • how we set-up or control the environment in which communication happens

and so many other ways of communicating that do not use the spoken word.

Why do we need to classify communication?


In order for us to be able to make sense of the act of communicating and to know where the communication cycle works well or breaks down, we need some sort of map or checklist of parts to follow.

Classifying all the ways in which we communicate, allows us to give a name to our actions and sort them out. This, in turn, allows us to put our actions into a place that makes sense for us, that we can connect to and understand the whys and wherefores. Only when we have set things in order are we able to analyze each part and its place in the process.

As we become familiar with what things are, where they fit, and why they matter, we can then take a good, honest look at the picture they create. Is this a picture of beauty? If it is, we now know why it’s beautiful and what we did to make it so. If it is not a beautiful picture (perhaps it’s a downright mess), we can now see the mistakes we made and set about fixing them. Or we can go get help in seeing what’s wrong and learning what to do to make it right

Focus Exercises

During this coming week, in order to begin to develop our awareness of all the ways we communicate,

  • Start paying attention to all the ways you receive non-linguistic messages. Make a list.
  • Start paying attention to all the ways you send non-linguistic messages. Make a list.
  • Go through your lists and mark down if these non-linguistic messages are positive or negative, from whom or to whom they are being sent, how often they occur in your week, and write down how they make you feel receiving and sending them.
  • Take an honest look at how the non-linguistic messages from your lists are affecting the relationships in your life – at home, with your friends and in the wider community, and at work. Are these messages, whether you are on the giving or receiving end, helping or hurting the relationship?
  • Start thinking about what you can do to change the negative messages into positive ones and what you can do to make positive changes in your relationships.

As we move forward through this new year and take stock of our relationships, we have the power to make tremendous positive changes in our lives. Taking the time to review and realign our lives need not be a monumental task. As we will learn on our journey together, day by day we take another step towards our goal. If we are only able to take one step each day, we will have take 365 steps this year towards healthier, happier relationships and towards a better, happier life.

If you wish to share your insights with the community, please leave a comment below or send a message through the contact page (this is a great place to practice and improve your effective communication skills).

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