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Types of Communication: Formal, Informal, Grapevine, Verbal & Non-Verbal

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  • 0:02 Verbal & Non-Verbal
  • 2:24 Formal & Informal
  • 3:49 The Grapevine
  • 4:57 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Shawn Grimsley
Communication is essential for success in any business, and the type of communication will vary given the circumstances and business needs. In this lesson, you'll learn about verbal, non-verbal, formal, informal and grapevine communication.

Verbal & Non-Verbal Communication

Communication can be divided between verbal and non-verbal communication. Verbal communication is communication using speech that is understood by all parties to the communication. In other words, it's talking. Keep in mind that we're talking about speech, not the written word. Written communication falls under its own category.

Non-verbal communication is a bit more complicated. It is sending a message without using words to convey meaning. Non-verbal communication can include many different elements. Let's look at some:

  • Vocal cues, referred to as paralinguistics, is a form of non-verbal communication that includes such things as pitch, inflection, tone, volume, speed of the speech, quality, non-word sounds, pronunciation, enunciation and even silence.
  • Body movement and gestures are also part of non-verbal communication. For example, leaning forward may mean interest, while crossing arms is often viewed as a defensive posture.
  • Facial expressions are a common form of non-verbal communication. Examples of facial expressions include smiling, crying and grimacing.
  • Space can also act as a form of non-verbal communication. Space includes the concept of territoriality and personal space. Territoriality is about making sure others know your territory. A fence is an example of territoriality. Personal space, on the other hand, is a three-dimensional space surrounding you that you don't want people to cross. If they come too close, you get uncomfortable.
  • Touch is often considered as positive and reinforcing, such as patting someone on the back for a job well done.
  • Clothing and artifacts can also send a message, including status, conformity or rebellion. Think about a doctor. Do they really need to wear a lab coat during all examinations? Not really, but it's a cue to their status. Artifacts include such things as hairstyles, jewelry, cosmetics, watches, shoes, tattoos and body piercing.

Formal & Informal Communication

Companies need to be able to communicate effectively. This is especially true of large companies where personal interaction may not be practical. This is where formal communication comes into play.

Formal communication involves utilizing the formal communication channels of an organization. Formal communication can move vertically in an organization. Information is collected and flows up to the top levels of management for review and decision making, while orders flow down from the top to the place where it will be implemented. For example, employees may be given a presentation from the human resources department on new policies and procedures.

Formal communication can also flow horizontally across the organization. Unlike vertical communication that involves communication between a higher and lower level of an organizational hierarchy, horizontal communication occurs between two parts of the organization at the same level. For example, the vice-presidents of a company may hold a quarterly meeting to discuss the upcoming quarter.

Not all communication in an organization is formal. Informal communication is communication between employees outside the formal communication structure of the company. While the subject of informal communication can be business-related, it need not be. You can think of informal communication as 'water-cooler talk.'

The Grapevine

One type of informal communication is called 'the grapevine.' The grapevine is an informational communication channel that goes in every direction - up, down and sideways. Management does not control it, and it is very difficult for management to stop it. Instead, messages are spread by employees sharing information on an informal basis, such as during breaks. It is often a source of rumors and moves very quickly.

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