From my observation, many people are searching for “the” four types of communication. Perhaps they are thinking of the four types of personalities. However, I will deal with four types of communication that are most commonly discussed.
Firstly, what is communication? It is a system for sending and receiving messages, whether that is personal or otherwise. Because communication is a system for sending and receiving, it therefore requires a Sender and a Receiver.
Communication is further described as “an act of transmitting. A giving or exchanging of information, signals, or messages by talk, gestures, writing, etc. To make known. To give information, messages. To have a systematic and meaningful relationship. A system for sending and receiving messages as by telephone, telegraph, radio, etc… A system as of routes for moving one place to another. The art of expressing ideas, esp. in speech and writing. The science of transmitting information, esp. in symbol.” (The Websters New World Dictionary)
As we can see, communication can be of many types. From the description above, we could say that there are two types of primary communication: 1) communication exchanged by humans, and 2) communication exchanged through industrial systems (albeit executed by humans).
Within the primary type of human or personal communication, we can boil down a secondary set of four types of communication commonly used.
These four types of secondary communication are the: A) Verbal; B) Non-verbal; C) Written; and D) Visual.
The verbal type of communication is what comes out of our speaking tool – our mouth. It is the verbalized thought that is expressed through the sounds of our spoken words. This can be done in person, or by telephone or video conferences, etc.
The non-verbal type of communication is the message we send, consciously or unconsciously, around our words, like gestures, tone of voice, facial expressions and physical appearance. This can be seen in person or through other means of tele-transmission.
The written type of communication is simply the words that we put into written forms. This can be through letters, memos, reports, emails, books, etc. It can only be read by the one receiving the communication (or heard by someone reading it to the receiver). This too can carry a non-verbal (non-written) tone that can be misread.
The visual type of communication is the addition of specially designed graphics or diagrams or illustrations to describe, explain or support, in a visual format, the subject that is being spoken or written about.
Then within the number two primary communication exchanged through industrial systems, we can extract the following secondary types of communication in accordance with the communication description above: A) Transportation by truck, ships and planes; B) Transmission of symbols and files by other means such as computer and Internet; C) Transmission of verbal, non-verbal, written and visual by way of television, radio and other industrial and commercial means.
So, right here, we already have two primary types of communication and seven secondary types of communication. And we could easily come up with some more. Because communication goes far beyond our commonly known verbal, non-verbal, written and visual four types of communication.