Choosing and using the right channels of communication is necessary for healthy relationships and successful business negotiations.
Communication channels are the modes or means by which people exchange information and interact with one another in their social settings – at home, school, or work. The communication channels you use to pass your message will determine the effectiveness of the communication process. Learning communication channels is an essential part of developing effective communication skills to be used in the workplace.
The key channels of communication include verbal, non-verbal, and written communications.
1) Oral/Verbal Channels of Communication
Verbal or oral communication refers to the process of speaking and listening through the word of mouth. The source of the message codes the information and speaks to the recipient through word of mouth. The key types of verbal communication channels are: face-to-face communication, telephone communication, and broadcast media communication channels.
a) Face-to-face communication
Face-to-face communication channel refers to personal interactions between two or more people. This is the most commonly used mode of communication among individuals within their environments, including workplace, school and home. Face-to-face channel communication is suitable when the information to be passed is complex or emotionally charged.
Advantages of face-to-face communication
- It is used to clarify information and avoid ambiguity
- It allows strong emotional and personal connection between speakers, leading to stronger and better relationships
- Effective in problem solving and decision making involving teams or groups.
- Face-to-face communication also enhances interaction between the source and the recipient(s) of the message.
- It is easier to convince people in a face-to-face communication, and it is necessary for negotiation when one wants to gain full attention and persuade someone.
- Promotes the use of non-verbal methods of communication such as gestures and body language to make communication more meaningful and enable speakers express their feelings better.
- Face-to-face communication is a quicker method of communication because someone gets instant feedback without the limitation of time and space.
Disadvantages of face-to-face communication
- Face-to-face communication is not possible with long distance communications
- Geographical barriers can hinder face-to-face communications
- It is difficult to pass a message to many people at the same time through face-to-face communication
- It is affected by logistical constraints, especially when the participants are geographically scattered.
- Impulse response – may not give people time to think and provide a well thought out response
b) Broadcast Media Channels of Communication
Broadcast media communication involves the use of mass media platforms such as radio, TV and loudspeakers to pass information to a large audience. A company that wishes to announce an annual meeting to its stakeholders or the launch of a new product may use radio or television. For example, the president may provide a media briefing or public address in multiple TV and radio stations.
c) Mobile/Telephone Communications
Another oral channel of communication is telephone or mobile channels, which is used when delivering a complex or private message to an individual or a small group.
Advantage of using a mobile/Telephone Communications
- It is appropriate for private and complex messages
- It enhances interactive exchange
- The recipient is able to interpret the message by reading the tone of the speaker
- Telephone conversations may save time as people take time to meet for face-to-face communication.
Disadvantages of mobile communications
- Anonymity may lead to fraud and fake identity
- Lacks personal and emotional connection like in face-to-face communication
- It may not be possible to read the moods and body language of the other speaker
2) Written Communication Channels
Written channels of communication include electronic and paper forms of communication, where messages are written. Examples of written communications are: text messages, memos, letters, emails, documents, reports, spreadsheets, and newsletters
Advantages of Written Communication Channels
- Written communications are lean
- Effective in transmitting large and complex information such as financial reports of big companies like Safaricom. Human beings cannot process a large piece of information at one go, so they can keep it in a written form to be read bit by bit.
- Written messages can provide deep information and big data for proper analysis and understanding.
- Written information can be carefully planned and crafted to pass accurate information as intended by the sender.
- They promote formality and authority of the message.
- Written message can be stored for a long time and used later as evidence.
Disadvantages of Written Communication Channels
- Written messages can be ambiguous. The writer should provide sufficient context for the words to be interpreted easily.
- Written messages can be too much to read, and some emails might be overlooked.
- They lack personal and emotional connection and interactions
- They lack non-verbal cues and body movements that are necessary to reinforce the message.
3) Electronic Communications
Electronic communication channels are those that allow people to communicate through electronic media such as computers and mobile phones. They include interactive blogs, social media, public and intranet websites, and television broadcasts.
Advantages of Electronic Communications
- People can communicate across geographical locations
- Electronic devices nowadays allow people to talk face-to-face from far distances, e.g. WhatsApp, Skype, and Zoom.
- This makes communications more interactive, personal, and effective.
- People can also communicate in real time across various geographical locations using electronic device; hence it is possible to receive instant feedback.
- Electronic channels make communications more convenient and less costly. It would be expensive to arrange for meetings and travel long distances to attend such meetings.
Disadvantages of Electronic Media
- Participants may be exposed to cyber bullying
- Can be risky because it electronic devices may be subjected to hacking and data theft.
- Technical difficulties may delay communications and threaten the security of users
4) Non-verbal Communication Channels
Non-verbal channels of communication are forms of communication that does not involve the use of verbal words, whether written or spoken. They include gestures, facial expressions, body movements, eye contact, and postures. Research shows that 93% of communications across the world are done non-verbally.
- Facial Expressions: this involves passing messages by expressing them using the face. Studies show that faces make over 10,000 expressions. Every feeling has its own type of facial expression – sadness, sorrow, happiness, shock, and anxiety. Some of the expressions including frowning, smiling, blinking, blushing, etc. The best facial expression to promote good communication is smile. A smile can lighten up a bad day. It warms up, welcomes, and establishes a person before others.
- Body Movements: body movements include kinesics or common practices that involve the movement of various parts of the body. They include shrugging shoulders, raising hands, shaking leg, tremors, nodding, etc.
- Posture: how a person is posturing can leave a strong impression on their audience. People can perceive your intentions or personality according to how you sit or stand. For instance, if you hold your head up high and keep your back straight, then you show confidence. However, if you lie low and face down, then you show lack of confidence, uncertainty, or weakness.
- Eye Contact: maintaining eye contact is one of the best ways to sustain communication. Your eyes will show your intention, interest, attention and readiness for conversation. If you keep checking your phone or looking away when someone else is speaking, then you may communicate the message that you are not interested in the conversation.
Advantages of Non-Verbal Communications
- Non-verbal communication channels complement verbal messages by adding some meaning to them.
- Easy presentation – speakers can present information easier through non-verbal than verbal communication.
- Nonverbal communication can be used to substitute verbal communication when the verbal words are blocked or interrupted by noise, geographical barriers, and language barriers.
- Important when used to repeat or reinforce verbal messages.
- They are used to illustrate the message
- Appropriate for deaf persons
- Useful for people who cannot read or write or can’t understand the language used
Disadvantages of Non-verbal Communication
- Vague, incomplete, and imprecise: if the receiver does not understand your expression, the meaning of the message may not be understood.
- Does not have a formal structure, so it cannot be used for official purposes
- Cultural differences can bring different meanings for various gestures and facial expressions. Each culture has unique meanings attached to their nonverbal cues.
- Not possible to hold long conversations and pass complex messages using non-verbal communications.
- It can be difficult to understand because it requires cultural understanding and keen attention.