4 types of communication (With examples)

Updated 23 March 2023

Communication skills are vital to a healthy and efficient workplace. Often categorized as a 'soft skill' or interpersonal skill, communication is the act of sharing information from one person to another person or to a group of people. There are many different ways to communicate, each of which plays an important role in sharing information.

In this article, we take a closer look at the different types of communication and how to strengthen your skills in each of these four communication methods.

Importance of communication

People use communication every day in nearly every environment, including in the workplace. Whether you give a slight head nod in agreement or present information to a large group, communication is absolutely necessary when building relationships, sharing ideas, delegating responsibilities, managing a team and much more.

Many employers like to hire candidates with proven communication skills, so it's always a perk to list these skills on your CV, even if your career mostly involves working on your own. Aside from improving your chances of landing a job, the ability to communicate well with others improves your networking opportunities. It's always possible to get better at communicating, regardless of your current skill level.

Related: Why Is Communication Important? (And How To Improve It)

Four ways to communicate

There are several different ways individuals share information with one another. For example, you might use verbal communication when sharing a presentation with a group or expressing ideas during a meeting. You might also use written communication when applying for a job or sending an email.

There are four main types of communication people use on a daily basis: verbal, nonverbal, written and visual. Here are each of these types of communication, why they are important and how you can improve your abilities in each for success in your career:

1. Verbal

Verbal communication means using speech to share information with other people. In the workplace, you need strong verbal communication skills to make influential presentations, to get your point across during meetings, video conferences and phone calls and to make productive conversation with coworkers and clients. Using speech to communicate is an efficient way to share information with others.

Here are a few steps you can take to develop your verbal communication skills further:

  • Use a strong, confident speaking voice. Particularly when presenting, be sure to speak loudly and clearly so that everyone in the room can easily hear you. This will improve the success of your delivery. Be confident when speaking so that your ideas are clear and easy for others to understand. Prior to an important presentation or even an interview, practice your presentation in the mirror or by recording your voice and playing it back.

  • Use active listening. The other side of using verbal communication is intently listening to what other people have to say. Active listening skills are key when conducting a meeting, giving a presentation or even participating in a one-on-one conversation. You can develop your active listening skills by paying close attention to what you hear during casual conversations with friends or family and avoiding distractions.

  • Avoid filler words. It can be tempting, especially during a presentation, to use filler words such as 'um', 'like', 'so' or 'yeah'. While it might feel natural after completing a sentence or pausing to collect your thoughts, it can also be distracting for your audience. Try presenting to a trusted friend or colleague who can call attention to the times you use filler words. Try to replace them by taking a breath when you feel tempted to use such filler words.

2. Nonverbal

Nonverbal communication means exchanging information face to face without using speech. Nonverbal communication includes things like smiling, hand gestures and posture.

Nonverbal communication helps you get a sense of how others are feeling or what they are thinking. If someone is displaying 'closed' body language, such as crossed arms or hunched shoulders, they might be feeling anxious, angry or nervous. If they are displaying 'open' body language with both feet on the floor and arms by their side or on the table, they are likely feeling positive and open to information.

Here are a few steps you can take to develop your nonverbal communication skills:

  • Notice how your emotions feel physically. Throughout the day, as you experience a range of emotions (anything from energized, bored, happy or frustrated), try to identify where you feel that emotion in your body or how you behave in response to it. For example, if you're feeling agitated, you might notice that you bite your nails. If you feel fear, you might feel a knot in your tummy. Developing self-awareness around how your emotions affect your body can give you greater mastery over your external presentation.

  • Be intentional about your nonverbal communication. Make an effort to display positive body language when you feel alert, open and positive about your surroundings. You can also use body language to support your verbal communication if you feel confused or anxious about information, like using a furrowed brow. Use body language alongside verbal communication, such as asking follow-up questions or pulling the presenter aside to give feedback.

  • Mimic nonverbal communications you find effective. If you find certain facial expressions or body language beneficial to a certain setting, use it as a guide when improving your own nonverbal communications. For example, if you see that when someone nods their head, it communicates approval and positive feedback efficiently, use it in your next meeting when you have the same feelings.

Related: What is Professional Body Language?

3. Written

Written communication means exchanging information with others using words and numbers. Writing is a useful communication tool because it creates a permanent record of the information exchanged for future reference. Writing is a widely used communication tool in the workplace, whether for emails, project management or reporting.

Here are a few steps you can take to develop your written communication skills:

  • Keep it simple. Written communication should be as simple and clear as possible. While it might be helpful to include lots of detail in instructional communications, for example, you should look for areas where you can write as clearly as possible for your audience to understand.

  • Keep it plain. Because you do not have the nuance of verbal and nonverbal communications, be careful when you are trying to communicate a certain tone when writing. For example, attempting to communicate a joke, sarcasm or excitement might be translated differently depending on the audience. Instead, try to keep your writing as simple and plain as possible and follow up with verbal communications where you can add more personality.

  • Reread your written communications. Setting time aside to reread your emails, letters or memos can help you identify mistakes or opportunities to say something differently. For important communications or those that you will send to a large number of people, it might be helpful to have a trusted colleague review it as well.

  • Have a library of effective writing. If you receive a certain pamphlet, email or memo that you find particularly helpful or interesting, save it for reference when writing your own documents. Incorporating methods or styles you like can help you to improve over time.

4. Visual

Visual communication uses aids such as graphs and charts to communicate information to people. Visual communication tools complement other forms of communication by adding context and depicting the meaning of information in a different way. Visual learners, in particular, are better at understanding information they can see.

Here are a few steps you can take to develop your visual communication skills better:

  • Ask others before including visuals. If you are considering sharing a visual aid in your presentation or email, consider asking others for feedback. Adding visuals can sometimes make concepts confusing or muddled. Getting a third-party perspective can help you decide whether the visual aid adds value to your communications.

  • Consider your audience. Be sure to include visuals that your intended recipients will easily understand. For example, if you display a chart with unfamiliar data, take time to explain how the information is depicted and how it relates to and supports what you are saying.

  • Set personal goals to work step by step through the things you want to accomplish. It might also be helpful to consult with trusted colleagues, managers or mentors to identify which areas would be best to focus on first.


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