- Understand the features and advantages of verbal communication.
- Understand the features and advantages of written communication.
- Understand the features of nonverbal communication and how it interacts with verbal and written communications.
Communication can be categorized into three basic types: (1) verbal communication, in which you listen to a person to understand their meaning; (2) written communication, in which you read their meaning; and (3) nonverbal communication, in which you observe a person and infer meaning. Each has its own advantages, disadvantages, and even pitfalls.
Verbal communications in business take place over the phone or in person. The medium of the Message is oral. Let’s return to our printer cartridge example. This time, the Message is being conveyed from the Sender (the Manager) to the Receiver (an employee named Bill) by telephone. We’ve already seen how the Manager’s request to Bill (“We need to buy more printer toner cartridges”) can go awry. Now let’s look at how the same Message can travel successfully from Sender to Receiver.
Manager (speaking on the phone): “Good morning, Bill!”
(By using the employee’s name, the manager is establishing a clear, personal link to the Receiver.)
Manager: “Your division’s numbers are looking great.”
(The Manager’s recognition of Bill’s role in a winning team further personalizes and emotionalizes the conversation.)
Manager: “Our next step is to order more printer toner cartridges. Could you place an order for 1,000 printer toner cartridges with Jones Computer Supplies? Our budget for this purchase is $30,000, and the cartridges need to be here by Wednesday afternoon.”
(The Manager breaks down the task into several steps. Each step consists of a specific task, time frame, quantity, or goal.)
Bill: “Sure thing! I’ll call Jones Computer Supplies and order 1,000 more printer toner cartridges, not exceeding a total of $30,000, to be here by Wednesday afternoon.”
(Bill, who is good at active listening, repeats what he has heard. This is the Feedback portion of the communication, and verbal communication has the advantage of offering opportunities for immediate feedback. Feedback helps Bill to recognize any confusion he may have had hearing the manager’s Message. Feedback also helps the manager to tell whether she has communicated the Message correctly.)
Storytelling has been shown to be an effective form of verbal communication; it serves an important organizational function by helping to construct common meanings for individuals within the organization. Stories can help clarify key values and help demonstrate how things are done within an organization, and story frequency, strength, and tone are related to higher organizational commitment (McCarthy, 2008). The quality of the stories entrepreneurs tell is related to their ability to secure capital for their firms(Martens, et. al., 2007). Stories can serve to reinforce and perpetuate an organization’s culture, part of the organizing P-O-L-C function.
While the process may be the same, high-stakes communications require more planning, reflection, and skill than normal day-to-day interactions at work. Examples of high-stakes communication events include asking for a raise or presenting a business plan to a venture capitalist. In addition to these events, there are also many times in our professional lives when we have crucial conversations—discussions where not only the stakes are high but also where opinions vary and emotions run strong (Patterson, et. al., 2002). One of the most consistent recommendations from communications experts is to work toward using “and” instead of “but” as you communicate under these circumstances. In addition, be aware of your communication style and practice flexibility; it is under stressful situations that communication styles can become the most rigid.