The Seven Types of Communication — Explained

Listen to the Audio Version — 8:34

Through the advancement of technology, we have been able to open up new channels of communication, giving people a wider range of means for communicating with one another.

I enjoy interacting with people face-to-face. By interacting face-to-face, I can connect with the other person more deeply and build rapport. However, I realize I cannot meet everyone in an interpersonal setting, so I turn to my blog to share my thoughts and ideas.

Using my communications blog to communicate may not be the ideal way to build a strong connection, but it helps me reach more of my audience. As I explain the seven types of communication in the following paragraphs, think about which communication context you have encountered most frequently and which of them you enjoy best. Learning to differentiate between communication types is a step toward becoming an effective communicator.

Seven Types of Communication

The following are the seven types of communication discussed in this article:

  1. Intrapersonal Communication
  2. Dyadic and Interpersonal Communication
  3. Small-Group Communication
  4. Organizational Communication
  5. Public Communication
  6. Mass Communication
  7. Social Media Communication

Intrapersonal Communication

The process of intrapersonal communication takes place within a single person. In other words, intrapersonal communication involves communicating with yourself. How we communicate with ourselves is through our “inner voice” or thoughts.

Intrapersonal communication affects almost all of our interactions with others. One major driver of our self-talk is our self-concept; how we perceive ourselves. Our self-esteem shapes the self-concept. We may ask ourselves, “Am I making a fool of myself?” or “Am I doing a good job at work?” How we perceive ourself and our biases toward others affects our self-talk and how we communicate with other people.

As an exercise, consider the following scenarios and how you think about each situation. Your thoughts — self-talk — guide your communication with the other person in each situation.

  1. You are shopping and see a stranger you would like to approach and get to know better.
  2. You’re asked to give a presentation at work in one hour.
  3. You are having a serious conversation with your boss, and they yawn during your conversation.
  4. Your significant other appears agitated lately, and you are uncertain if you are the cause of their irritation.

Each scenario creates its own self-talk that decides how you will verbally and non-verbally communicate with that person. Being aware of your self-talk can help you navigate communication situations that may otherwise escalate.

Intrapersonal communication can help us work through varying scenarios before we engage in verbal communication with other people. However, this type of communication can lead to awkward or escalated types of conversations if we are not fully aware of our self-talk and biased language.

Dyadic and Interpersonal Communication

Dyadic and interpersonal communication are similar, but not necessarily the same type of communication. A dyad is something that consists of two elements or parts. Dyadic communication — described by social scientists — is the communication between two people.

Interpersonal communication is a two-way interaction between people who are part of a close and irreplaceable relationship. Thus, not all dyads are interpersonal and not all interpersonal communication is dyadic.

Dyadic communication may include two passing strangers that engage in a brief small-talk encounter, asking how one another is doing and exchanging other pleasantries. However, if two close friends are engaged in a personal conversation, sharing personal information with one another, we call this interpersonal communication.

Interpersonal communication can be dyadic, whereas two close friends engage in personal conversation. There can also be interpersonal communication between more than two close people invested in each other and communicating personal information. A dyad will always remain just two people communicating and not always communicating interpersonally.

types of communication - illustrated small group communicationSmall-Group Communication

Chances are you took part in a small group activity either in school, at work, or during a family gathering. Small-group communication is three or more people in a group where each person can take part actively with other group members. Examples of small groups are:

  1. Your family members
  2. Athletic teams
  3. Colleagues at work
  4. Student groups working together on a project

A small group displays characteristics that differ from dyads. For example, small group members are more likely to take risks than dyads. The majority of members in a small group can outvote others, whereas in a dyad, this is not possible. Small groups, because of the number of members, tend to be more creative than dyads. Leadership is prevalent in small groups where leaders facilitate most of the communication, as opposed to a lack of leadership in dyads.

Organizational Communication

Organizational communication involves a larger collection of people working collectively to achieve goals. An organization may be commercial (like a corporation), nonprofit like the Red Cross, political (local, state, or federal government) or health-related, such as hospitals.

Organizations develop their own cultures and traditions that influence how people behave and communicate. Organizational communication involves specific roles, such as sales associates, executives, supervisors, line managers, and general employees. These groups communicate according to their organizational cultures and goals.

Public Communication

Public communication occurs when groups are too large for everyone to contribute. Additionally, they are characterized by an unequal amount of speaking and limited verbal feedback. Even in situations where feedback occurs — especially online — the speakers are still in control and do most of the communicating.

Examples of public communication are political rallies where you have just a few people speaking to the audience, with very little to no feedback. Business seminars where a speaker presents their program and may solicit feedback in limited amounts.

Public communication may also take place as part of organizational communication, where the CEO of the corporation may address a large group of employees, sharing with them their progress toward the organization’s goal.

Mass Communication

There is often a link between mass communication and media or advertising. This type of communication occurs when the audience is extremely large, often spread out across cities or nations. Mass communication includes information transmitted through media channels such as television, internet channels, magazines, newspapers, movies, or other forms of mass media. The downside to this type of communication is that it lacks personal contact between the sender and the receiver. Think of a news program you are watching or a magazine article you read. Both communicate to a large audience, but you cannot provide any feedback to the originator of the communication.

Social Media Communication

A newcomer to the varying types of communication is social media communication. Social media communication can be both challenging and rewarding. It may include dyadic conversations, facilitate small group communication, or serve as Mass communication for public figures and organizations. Because social media plays such an integral role in our daily lives, it is important to have it as its own communication type.

Final Thoughts

Communication is complex. Navigating the various ways one can communicate requires, in part, the understanding of the various types of communication. Each communication style does not exist in isolation, meaning that two or more communication types may work in tandem.

For example, dyadic communication can easily be part of organizational communication or interpersonal communication. The speaker may also engage in intrapersonal communication — self-talk — while delivering a seminar in a public communication forum within the context of an organizational communication event.

The next time you communicate with people or are listening to someone speak, take note of the type of communication taking place. Monitor your self-talk. What are you internally communicating about the event? Are you questioning yourself, the speaker, or something else?

Communication Activity: Find an Example

Note your encounters with other people. Perhaps you see a stranger passing by, or meet a new co-worker or teacher for the first time. Listen to your intrapersonal communication. What types of thoughts are you communicating to yourself? Are they positive or negative? How do they reflect your self-image?

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