Implicit and Explicit Rules of Communication: Definitions & Examples

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  • 0:02 Implicit & Explicit…
  • 1:21 Implicit Examples
  • 2:11 Explicit Examples
  • 2:59 Combination of Rules
  • 3:14 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Jennifer Lombardo
Expert Contributor
Joseph Shinn

Joe has a PhD in Economics from Temple University and has been teaching college-level courses for 10 years.

There are two different rules of communication within a business environment. Implicit communication focuses on the ambiguous areas of gestures, vocal tones and actions, while explicit communication deals with what a person writes or says directly.

Implicit & Explicit Definitions

Joseph works at the brand-new Drenched Water Park in Auburn City, Florida. He spends his days organizing kid birthday parties, directing parking lot traffic and cleaning the facilities. He loves his job and reports directly to two bosses: Michelle and Tim. Michelle is the manager of the parties at the park, while Tim handles the day-to-day operations, such as cleaning. The only issue Joseph has regarding his job is that both of his bosses communication very differently.

Michelle uses implicit communication rules to direct and inform Joseph at work. Implicit communication rules are the use of facial expressions, body language, gestures, postures or vocal qualities to help get a message across. Sometimes Michelle's use of no communication can also be considered implicit as well. This type of communication can be very powerful. It is also hard to interpret, as the recipient can be confused about the message.

Joseph's other manager, Tim, uses explicit communication rules to direct him with regards to operation assignments. Explicit communication rules are about what a manager says or writes and is usually very direct, clear and straightforward. This gives little room for confusion or interpretation.

Let's take a look at each type of communication to see what challenges Joseph has during his day at work.

Implicit Examples

Michelle's use of implicit communication rules can sometimes be very infuriating for Joseph. She can be vague and confusing in her communication. For example, Michelle will tell Joseph that he is doing a great job, but her face and tone is angry, and she doesn't even look at him when speaking to him. Joseph is always stressed about whether he really is doing a good job or if Michelle is upset with his work. She never has a smile on her face and always has her arms crossed when she addresses his work team.

She also points and moves her hands dismissively. Most employees on the team find that her negative body language and vocal tone reflect an unhappy manager. She is not highly liked, and most employees dislike working for her. Her ambiguous attitudes and downright cold demeanor make it quite a challenge for employees.

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Additional Activities

Implicit & Explicit Rules of Communication: Questions for Reflection

  1. Define and give two examples of implicit communication rules. In defining these rules, discuss how this type of communication is conveyed.
  2. Define and give two examples of explicit communication rules. In defining these rules, discuss how this type of communication is conveyed.
  3. Every week you have weekly staff meetings with your employees. You notice that whenever you suggest working on a new project, one of your employees always rolls his eyes. Occasionally, this employee will even laugh. Based on this information, is your employee using implicit communication, explicit communication or both? Also, what type of information is this employee indirectly conveying to you?
  4. Whenever you see one of your co-workers, she asks you questions about your kids and laughs and smiles when you tell stories about the mischief they get into. Based on this information, is your employee using implicit communication, explicit communication or both? Also, what type of information is this employee indirectly conveying to you?
  5. It's possible for someone to say one thing with their words, but indicate a completely different emotion with their body language. Describe a time when someone said something nice to you but you didn't think they meant it based on some implicit communication. Be specific about the implicit communication that they used and why you thought it demonstrated negativity.

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