Just about everything we do communicates something. Even our long silences can be a form of communication! Here, I’ll outline some of the top examples of communication including face-to-face discussion, text message, and body language.
Having the ability to communicate effectively is often referred to communication skills. If you have strong communication skills, you’re probably going to be competent at communicating using many of the examples below.
These examples of communication can be classified into multiple types. The five types of communication include:
- Written Communication
- Verbal Communication
- Non-Verbal Communication
- Visual Communication
- Mathematical Communication
Each example of communication below could cross multiple different levels of formality depending on the context, so, this is just a generalization.
Examples of Communication
1. Face-to-Face (Verbal) – As old as humans, face-to-face verbal communication occurs every day of our lives. Any time we chat to someone in-person, we’re engaging in the most common and even intimate types of communication there is. Nearly everyone has this communication skill.
2. Written Text (Written) – Writing emerged 5,500 years ago in Iraq (known then as ‘Mesopotamia’) and ever since, societies have formulated ways to communicate in written form. We see writing all around us. Walk into a shop and there will be text telling you where to line up, how much the products cost, and what ingredients they contain.
3. Books and Newspapers (Written) – The rise of the printing press in the 1500s led to the proliferation of books and newspapers. For the first time, there was a way to spread the exact same information to the masses. Before then, communication was like one big game of telephone. Benedict Anderson (1983) also credits the rise of the printing press as the impetus for nationalism because people across a nation could now consume the same news daily.
4. Radio Communication (Verbal) – The rise of the transistor radio toward the beginning of the 20th Century allowed publishers and governments to communicate instantaneously to a huge audience. Today, radio is still a vital tool during national disasters to spread important information as fast as possible.
5. Morse Code (Mathematical) – Before we mastered recording the human voice for radio broadcast, we used morse code. Operators needed to be able to translate the long and short taps to decipher urgent messages during times of war.
6. Telephone Communication (Verbal) – The telephone (still important today!) enabled us to communicate in real-time with one another across long distances. And unlike radio, it was a means of two-way communication. For the first time, people were able to hear one another’s voices in real time and have conversations despite the tyranny of distance.
7. Homing Pigeon (Written) – Yep, that’s communication, too! And as long as 3000 years ago, people would leverage the remarkable ability of messenger pigeons to find their way home to send messages. People would take the pigeons on journeys then release them (with a message tied around their leg) and they would find their way home. Famously, they were often used to report the winners of the Ancient Olympics across Europe.
8. Post (Written) – There was once a time when the post was used regularly as a means of communication. People would send letters to one another with updates on their lives. We still send mail by post to this day, although it saw a rapid decline in the late 20th Century after the introduction of email. Nevertheless, it has seen a strong resurgence in recent years thanks to the rise of online storefronts like Amazon who use the post to send items to your doorstep.
9. Greeting Cards (Written) – The tradition of sending greeting cards dates back to a time when telephone communication was too expensive for the masses. But still today, we’ll send greeting card on birthdays and Christmas to our loved ones with a kind message of well-wishes inside.
10. Sending Flowers (Non-Verbal) – Flowers have long been used to communicate a message: be it love, condolences, or even an apology. Today, a man might send his wife roses for their anniversary. Or, someone who lost a loved one might receive flowers as a sign that you’re thinking about them and you want them to know you care.
11. Videoconference (Verbal) – Today, video calls are incredibly common. We will use the cameras on our phones to talk to one another. Or, for work purposes, we might use our webcams to have a conference with colleagues across the other side of the country. With videoconferencing, people can now even work from the comfort of their own home!
12. Sign Language (Non-Verbal) – Sign language is a form of communication for the deaf. It allows them to talk despite the inability to hear. Did you know that sign languages are very complex, and in fact there are many different sign languages that are a different as German and English! For example, Britain, the United States, and Australia all have their own distinct sign languages.
13. Gestures (Non-Verbal) – Gestures aren’t as complex as sign language but they’re much more universally understood. A point, a wave, or a shaking fist all act as almost universal gestures to show happiness, a greeting, or anger! Some cultures also have their own gestures; for example, showing the bottom of your feet is very rude in some cultures and not-so-rude in others.
14. Body Language (Non-Verbal) – Body language is more subtle than gestures but still a powerful way to communicate. It could be as simple as posture (an exhausted or sad person would be slumped over) or an upbeat walk to communicate you’re positive and ready for the day.
15. Facial Expressions (Non-Verbal) – In just about every culture, we know that a smile communicates happiness and goodwill while a furrowed brow symbolizes anger.
16. Symbols (Written) – While we have written language to communicate sentences, but we also have symbol symbols throughout society to communicate simple ideas. For example, a red octagon communicates the message to ‘Stop!’ while an arrow communicates directionality.
17. Text Messaging (Written) – Text messaging emerged as a popular form of communication for youths when cell phones became popular in the 1990s. It’s an effective way to send quick snippets of information to anyone, any time. Today, text messaging is becoming less common thanks to instant messenger data apps like Whatsapp and Facebook Messenger.
18. Emojis (Visual) – With the rise of intstant messaging, a new form of symbolic representation emerged: the emoji. Starting with smiley faces, this grew to a who array of facial expressions and other iconography used to add expression to instant messages online.
19. Fax (Written) – During the 20th century, prior to the internet, fax was a fast way for businesses to send documents to one another. But nowadays, it’s a generally outdated form of communication. Today, what we once would have sent via fax is now sent via email.
20. Email (Written) – Email emerged in the early 1990s and rapidly overtook post (‘snail mail’) as a preferred form of communication for businesses. Today, a lot of the communication we used to get via post now arrive by email – everything from newsletters to invoices to legal documents!
22. Blogging (Written) – Blogging is an example of ‘new media’, a form of media that is characterized by instantaneous feedback loops and the ability of anyone to publish to a broad audience. A blog is simply a website (like the one you’re reading now!) where people can publish information online for anyone with an internet connection to access.
23. Twitter (Written) – Building on both text messaging and blogging, twitter requires you to make short online posts that don’t go out to one person, but to all of your followers. A person can tweet something that ‘goes viral’ and before you know it your tweet has been seen by millions of people!
24. Internet Chat (Written) – Text message was rapidly overcome by internet chat, which was cheaper and offered more features like the use of emojis and memes. Today, some of the most popular internet chat platforms are Instagram, Discord, and Facebook Messenger.
25. Social Media (Written) – Social media are platforms where you can upload a social profile, add friends, post messages and images, and create an online identity. Social media have gone through many iterations, from MySpace to Facebook to Instagram to more!
26. Touch (Non-Verbal) – Known as one of the five love languages, gentle touch can communicate affection and care for someone. A hug, a handshake, or a pat on the back all communicate without the use of language.
27. Gift Giving (Non-Verbal) – Giving gifts, another one of the five love languages, is a way to communicate your affection or gratitude to someone. You might give a gift to a teacher as a message of thanks to your teacher or a gift to your son or daughter for their birthday to celebrate their life.
28. Sound Signals (Non-Verbal) – Sound signals are signs you might make that don’t constitute language, but still do communicate a message. An example might be making a whistling sound to get attention or applause to show appreciation for something (or that you’re impressed by it!)
29. Eye Contact (Non-Verbal) – Eye contact is an interesting way to communicate because it has different meaning depending on the culture. In the West, we often see eye contact as a sign of respect. But in some cultures like some Aboriginal Australians, eye contact is seen as a sign of defiance.
30. Tone of Voice (Verbal) – You communicate not only by what you say, but how you say it. You can have an angry, sarcastic, enthusiastic, or even bored tone of voice, and this all impacts how people receive your messages.
31. Silence and Avoidance – Even silence is an example of communication. Long silences can communicate discomfort, anxiety, or even simmering anger. Not talking to a friend for several weeks might show them that you’re unhappy with them for something.
32. Active Listening (Non-Vebal) – We don’t often think of listening as an example of communication, but through active listening we can communicate our interest and engagement in what someone is saying. Other strategies such as mirroring what someone is saying and nodding along can all communicate your thoughts while listening to others.
33. Art (Visual) – Communication through art is older than homosapiens! Anthropologists have found artworks from Maltravieso cave (in Cáceres, Spain) that is 64,000 years old. Today, many people collect, interpret, and critique the messages embedded in artworks.
34. Tables and Graphs (Visual) – Tables, graphs, and infographics are some of the fastest and most visually appealing ways to communicate information. While written word can be a great communicator, sometimes we need a table or graph to really demonstrate relationships between things we’re looking at.
35. Quality Time – Spending quality time with someone is a way to communicate. It demonstrates that we love someone and care about them. A date night with your wife, a phone call to your mother, or an afternoon with your daughter will send a message that you love them.
36. Tattoos and Body Piercings (Visual) – We communicate about our identities through body art. Stereotypically, we might consider a big muscly man with a lot of tattoos to be seen as a threat. But tattoos have their own personal meanings to everyone with tattoo art, including potential cultural meanings (such as with the New Zealand Maori).
37. Dance (Visual) – Yes, we communicate through dance! In fact, people who choreograph dances usually attempt to communicate a message in their routine. It might be a simple message (such as a College football cheer communicating enthusiasm) or a complex message such as in Russian Ballet.
38. Advertising – The most common ways for brands to communicate with us is through advertising. This can be on television, the internet (they’re doing it on this very page!), or even billboards on the side of the road.
39. Skywriting (Written) – It’s an incredibly world we live in where people can literally write messages in the sky. You might see a brand advertising their brand name, or someone writing “Marry Me, Anne?” in the sky.
40. Music (Non-Verbal) – Music is one of the most powerful communication forms. Next time you watch a television show, listen for the music and sound effects. They tell a story – the music is selected to convey suspense, joy, sadness, or other emotions that mirror the scene.
41. Memes (Visual) – Memes are the natural progression from Emojis. Now, when using online chat, instead of just providing a small smiley face, you can insert a short GIF (often of a quote from your favorite show!) expressing your emotions.
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Communication is all around us. Just about anything we do communicates some sort of message. And while there are generally just four types of communication, we can break those types down into countless examples. These are just 41 of the thousands of different ways we can communicate every day of our lives.