Communication is easily the most important skill for anyone looking to get into business. If you cannot put your thoughts into words that others can understand and act upon, you won’t find success at any level of an organization because you won’t be able to work with fellow employees successfully or effectively give direction to personnel.
Still, contrary to the popular belief that good communication skills are innate, you can improve your ability to communicate by taking a strategic communication course. Before investing in formal training for business communication though, you should establish a foundation of business communication — by learning about all the different types of communication that can occur within a business.
Internal communication consists of all the different types of communication that occur within a business, between various staff and employees. Typically, business communication experts break down this type of communication into three subcategories:
Upward communication occurs when a subordinate communicates with a superior. Upward communication is critical for a business because leaders need to understand the ongoings at lower levels to make informed decisions that impact the success of the organization. Information must constantly be flowing upward, which means leaders need to cultivate an environment in which employees feel comfortable and capable of communicating with those higher up.
The opposite of upward communication, downward communication occurs when a superior communicates with one or more subordinates. Often, this type of communication includes information to guide lower levels of employees in their tasks, so it is imperative that leaders carefully tailor their communication to be clear and concise.
When communication occurs between co-workers of equal status within an organization, that communication is considered to be lateral. Lateral communication includes messages between closely working teammates as well as communication across departments. While lateral communication is the closest to natural or casual communication, it should always be respectful and professional, especially when it includes business-related information.
Not all business communication occurs within an organization. No business is an island; communication must at times involve parties outside the business, which might include vendors, contractors, partners or, of course, consumers and clients. It is important to remember that external communication such as this provides the business with essential resources, and it also helps to establish the business’s brand and reputation. Thus, every external communication made should be carefully curated and analyzed to ensure that the business is accurately represented.
Methods of Communication
The environment and tools leaders and employees use to communicate affect the language and tone of their communications, just as the social relationships do. Thus, it is important to consider different methods of communication commonly employed in business and how to utilize them effectively.
An important distinction in methods of business communication is that of electronic communications as different from communication that occurs in person. In the 21st century, most businesses rely to some degree on digital tools, and plenty of workers must master electronic communications like email, video chat, social media posting, instant messaging and more.
Different types of electronic communications carry different meanings and expectations; for instance, it is unlikely that internal downward communication over instant messaging will involve anything particularly serious; more often, instant messaging services help facilitate lateral communication between team members. Many of the differences in electronic communications styles are unique to individual business cultures, so professionals need to be able to absorb and apply communication practices in different environments.
Verbal vs. Written
Verbal communications involve speaking, which can include face-to-face meetings, telephone calls, videoconferencing and more. Often, verbal communication requires some improvisational skill because conversations occur quickly and require responses in the moment. All professionals should strive to control their emotions and exude confidence while speaking in a business setting.
In contrast, written communications develop slowly, as each party involved has time to read and reflect on communicated information before drafting a response. Email is the most common written communication in business, but businesses also utilize instant messaging services, social media and even posted mail. Though different types of written communications have different rules (written and unwritten) regarding style and substance, it is best to err on the side of formality and professionalism when communicating about business.
You won’t find success in business if you can’t communicate. The sooner you begin to hone your communication skills, the sooner you can thrive in any business environment.