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Everything that you need to know about formal and informal communication.

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“Sometimes not speaking says more than all the words in the world,” said Colleen Hoover, author of the popular novel It Ends with Us


The quote encapsulates communication's critical role in our personal and professional lives. Communication is essential to the existence and survival of both human beings and organizations. It creates and transmits ideas, information, perspectives, facts, and feelings from one location, person, or group to another.


All creatures on Earth have evolved ways to communicate their emotions and thoughts to one another. However, humans' ability to use words and language to convey specific meanings separates them from the animal species.

Communication's significance cannot be overstated. After all, culture, society, and civilisation cannot exist without the ability to communicate with one another. Good communication prevents wars and misunderstandings, assists us in meeting our needs, establishes rules and laws that aid in the structuring of society, assists people in finding and keeping jobs, provides information and guidance, and passes down cultural traditions, norms, and values.

Useful Resourcesadvanced communication for professionalsonline communication skills course

Communication is exchanging information between individuals using a common system of symbols, signs, or behaviour. Communication is important in our lives because it allows people to exchange their ideas, opinions, information, and feelings. It is a critical tool that plays an important role in any organization's growth. 

Effective communication assists workers in adjusting to the physical and social aspects of their jobs. It also improves the industry's human relations. An effective communication system enables management to motivate, influence, and satisfy subordinates, which boosts morale and keeps them motivated. Two-way communication fosters cooperation and mutual understanding among employees and between employees and management. This results in less friction and, as a result, industrial peace and efficient operations in the factory.

What are the patterns of interaction or types of communication?

Communication can be distinguished as verbal or nonverbal.

Verbal is the spoken language, which includes not only the language and words spoken but also the tone, cadence, and speed, as well as formal versus informal language.

Posture, facial expressions, body movements, gestures, eye contact, nodding in agreement, looking away and sighing, and a variety of other gestures are some examples of non-verbal communication.

There is also visual communication, which is through social media. Today it has provided the world with a form of visual communication that has the potential to connect people all over the world. Zoom, Google-meet, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and numerous other social media platforms have changed how we communicate. Signs and symbols that communicate or convey a concept, as well as audiovisual aids for presentations, are examples of visual communication.


Next, is written communication. This can take various forms, from emails and texts to old-fashioned pen and paper.

Lastly, it is listening actively. This is an important type of communication because it encourages, inspires, and guides us by reflecting on what is said and responding to the sender thoughtfully and deliberately to show that the receiver is truly interested.

There is a sender and a receiver involved in communication, as well as a message and interpretations of meaning on both ends. 

Communication Styles

There are two styles of communication styles in an organization: Formal and Informal. 

The main distinction between them is that formal communication is supported by predefined channels, whereas informal communication does not. These two are frequently mixed up in an organization. 



Formal Communication

The three approaches by Greek philosopher Aristotle, Logos, Ethos, and Pathos, hold the key to being a persuasive speaker and conveying the right message. Logos - to the logic of the listener, Ethos - to the speaker's credibility, and Pathos, or emotional appeal, contribute to being an effective speaker.

Read More: Style or substance: what is more important in oral communication?

Formal communication is described as communication in which communication gets delivered or occurs via predefined channels or established channels of the organization. It is also referred to as official communication. The main goal of this communication is to converse properly and ensure that the information is delivered correctly. 

This mode of communication is considered effective because it saves time through its systematic flow of communication. The communication follows a hierarchical chain of command that the organization has already established.  In general, this type of communication is only used at work, and employees are required to use it while performing their duties.

Talking about reports, job descriptions, work orders, sales and inventory information, and so on are a few examples of formal communication. 

One of the major drawbacks of formal communication is that the rules and regulations are strict. Consider, for instance, the weekly or monthly meetings and team meetings that your manager may request. 


Formal Communication Styles

1. Vertical - Communication takes place between different organizational levels here. As a result, the message is either passed from juniors to team leaders, to the manager, or vice versa.

2. Horizontal -This is the exchange of information between peers from different departments.

3. Diagonal - As the name implies, the conversation occurs between two employees working at different levels in various functional departments. For example, A web page designer discussing a project with a marketing manager can be classified as crosswise or diagonal communication.



Informal Communication

Informal communication is multifaceted. In an organizational context, informal communication is free-flowing communication between subordinates and superiors. People converse freely without any restriction. 

It is unofficial in nature and is based on the informal social relationships that develop in the workplace outside of the normal business hierarchy. This type of communication is quick and rapid because it moves freely in all directions. This type of communication is extremely natural in organizations as people interact with one another about their professional lives, personal lives, and other matters. For instance, sharing feelings, casual conversation, gossiping, talking about their families, etc.

One of the primary benefits of informal communication is its adaptability. There is no formality to obstruct or it does not limit communication. But the disadvantage of this type of communication is that it can also spread rumours and misinformation rapidly.


Informal Communication styles

1. Single Strand string - This type of communication occurs when one individual share an idea or information with another, who then passes it on to another person, and so on like a cycle.

2. The Cluster Community - How quickly a social media challenge goes viral is a perfect example of a cluster chain. For instance, when a person starts something unique and gives a challenge to three of his friends, they finish it, tag three more people, and so forth. This is how a cluster chain communication begins and grows.

3. The Gossip Chain – Imagine canteen or coffee break session discussions, in which one person describes her recent experiences about her relationship or about the movie she watched last night with a group of friends gathered. That is how the gossip chain works. One person starts the conversation and shares information with a group of people, who then pass it on to others.


What Are the Differences Between Formal and Informal Communication?

Maintaining a clear and cordial work culture requires both formal and informal communication. But what distinguishes casual conversations from formal meetings? 


Formal communication is also known as official communication. Informal communication can flow freely in any direction, whereas formal communication follows a specific structure or channels, such as emails to clients. The people who attend formal meetings must keep the messages shared private or confidential. However, maintaining confidentiality becomes difficult when you are having a casual or informal conversation. In fact, it is said that most rumours or gossip begin with informal communication. Formal communication takes time. Informal communication, on the other hand, is usually quick and simple. While formal communication requires acknowledgement, informal communication does not. Formal communication is more reliable because it adheres to a pattern established by the organization. Informal communication, on the other hand, takes off on its own and sets its own agenda or ideology. Formal communication is critical to achieving organizational goals. Informal communication is essential for developing personal relationships. Formal communication is the exchange of official workplace information. Informal communication is the polar opposite and does not adhere to predetermined policy rules. 

Read More: Role of Body Language in Communication

One of the great distinctive communication examples is a few employees discussing the game that was on last night, which becomes informal. Another set of employees discussing the company’s policy change becomes formal communication.

Both types of communication are necessary for the workplace, but informal communication is more beneficial because it can bridge departmental gaps and foster a sense of belonging and bonding. 

Informal communication benefits businesses because employees who have friends to communicate with start enjoying their jobs more, which increases productivity.  

Employees have someone to go to when they don't understand a business aspect, which is another huge advantage of informal communication. It's a great way for employees to stay connected.

Nowadays, most organisations prefer an open-door policy that encourages both formal and informal communication. Most businesses strive to effectively blend formal and informal communication channels. It eventually improves employee productivity, efficiency, and transparency. However, the mode of communication should change depending on the circumstances. Because everyone has both official and unofficial situations, it is critical to balance the two modes of communication. 

If your formal communication is not fluent enough, it may result in poor customer relations and, ultimately, put your job at risk. While some people have the ability to communicate fluently, others may need to work on it over time. As a result, rather than fearing the abilities of others, it is critical to focus on the purpose of communication.

Informal communication can also be used for much more than just friendly banter. This communication can be extremely beneficial in resolving a conflict between employees and management. 

The end result is, however, increased efficiency, productivity, and employee trust from the entry-level to the team leader and the manager.


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