Meaning, types and characteristics of Communication

In this Article we are going to discuss Meaning, types and characteristics of Communication for UGC NET Paper 1 alongwith some important previous year MCQs asked from this topic in exam.

Syllabus of Unit - IV (Communication) for UGC Net Paper 1 - Teaching and Research Aptitude

Communication: Meaning, types and characteristics of communication.
Effective communication: Verbal and Non-verbal, Inter-Cultural and group communications, Classroom communication.
Barriers to effective communication.
Mass-Media and Society.

Roots of Word Communication

The English term 'Communication' has been evolved from Latin language. 'Communis and communicare' are two Latin words related to the word communication. Communis is noun word, which means common, communiality or sharing. Similarly, communicare is a verb, which means 'make something common'.

Communication means transferring thoughts, information, emotion and ideas through gesture, voice, symbols, signs and expressions from one person to another. Three things are most important and essential in any communication process they are Sender, Receiver and the Channel (medium).

  • The sender is encoding the message in any form like voice, written or any signs. So, they are offered as Encoder
  • The receiver is decoding the message from the sender to understand the message. So, they often called as Decoder.
  • Channel: Any messages or information needs some channel or a medium. Example: television is an audio visual medium which decodes the electronic signals into an audio visuals to the audience
  • Communication is simply the act of transferring information from one place, person or group to another. 

Process of Communication

Communications is a continuous process which mainly involves three elements viz. sender, message, and receiver. The elements involved in the communication process are explained below in detail:

1. Sender The sender or the communicator generates the message and conveys it to the receiver. He is the source and the one who starts the communication 

2. Message It is the idea, information, view, fact, feeling, etc. that is generated by the sender and is then intended to be communicated further. 

3. Encoding The message generated by the sender is encoded symbolically such as in the form of words, pictures, gestures, etc. before it is being conveyed. 

4. Media It is the manner in which the encoded message is transmitted. The message may be transmitted orally or in writing. The medium of communication includes telephone, internet, post, fax, e-mail, etc. The choice of medium is decided by the sender.

5. Decoding It is the process of converting the symbols encoded by the sender. After decoding the message is received by the receiver. 

6. Receiver He is the person who is last in the chain and for whom the message was sent by the sender. Once the receiver receives the message and understands it in proper perspective and acts according to the message, only then the purpose of communication is successful. 

7. Feedback Once the receiver confirms to the sender that he has received the message and understood it, the process of communication is complete. 

8. Noise It refers to any obstruction that is caused by the sender, message or receiver during the process of communication. For example, bad telephone connection, faulty encoding, faulty decoding, inattentive receiver, poor understanding of message due to prejudice or inappropriate gestures, etc.

Types of Communication

 Verbal and Non-Verbal Communication 

1. Verbal Communication The communication happens through verbally, vocally or through written words which express or convey the message to other is called verbal communication. 

Verbal communication is the use of language to transfer information through speaking or sign language. It is one of the most common types, often used during presentations, video conferences and phone calls, meetings and one-on-one conversations. Verbal communication is important because it is efficient. It can be helpful to support verbal communication with both nonverbal and written communication.

Factors of Effective Verbal communication:

1. Think before you speak

2. Speak with confidence

3. Be clear and concise

4. Be aware of your non-verbal communication cues

5. Be a good listener

6. Think about the perspective of your audience

7. Vary your vocal tone

Types of Verbal Communication

A. Oral Communication: A communication which happens through word of mouth, spoken words, conversations and also any messages or information are shared or exchanged between one another through speech or word of mouth is called oral communication. Example: Public speech, News reading, Television, Radio, telephone and mobile conversations.

B. Written Communication: A communication happens through any word written or often written sign which refers the languages uses in any medium is called written communication. Example: Simply any hand written, typed, Newspaper, printed word documents, letters, books and magazines.

2. Non-Verbal Communication Any communication without word of mouth, spoken words, conversation and written languages are called Non-Verbal Communication. It happens through signs, symbols, colours, gestures, body language or any facial expressions. 

Nonverbal communication is the use of body language, gestures and facial expressions to convey information to others. It can be used both intentionally and unintentionally. For example, you might smile unintentionally when you hear a pleasing or enjoyable idea or piece of information. Nonverbal communication is helpful when trying to understand others’ thoughts and feelings.

If they are displaying “closed” body language such as crossed arms or legs, or hunched shoulders, they might be feeling anxious, angry or nervous. If they are displaying “open” body language with both feet on the floor and arms by their side or on the table, they are likely feeling positive and open to information

The following tips can help you learn to read the nonverbal signals of other people and enhance your own ability to communicate effectively.

1. Pay Attention to Nonverbal Signals

2. Look for Incongruent Behaviors

3.Concentrate on Your Tone of Voice When Speaking

4.Use Good Eye Contact

5.Ask Questions About Nonverbal Signals

6.Use Signals to Make Communication More Meaningful

7.Look at Signals as a Whole

8.Consider the Context

9.Be Aware That Signals Can be Misread

10. Practice, Practice, Practice

Formal and Informal Communication: 

Communication within an Organisation can be also be Formal and Informal Communication.

Formal Communication: 

Formal Communication refers to the communication taking place through official channels in an organisation. Such type of communication takes place between managers or employees of same cadre or between superior and subordinate and vice versa. It may be oral or written but complete record of such communication is maintained in an organisation.

Communication network is the pattern among the members of an organisation through which the communication flows in an organisation. It depends on the nature, channel of communication & number of persons involved.

The different types of communication networks operating in formal organisation are discussed below:

1. Single Chain: It facilitates flow of communication from a superior to a subordinate among different levels in an organisation, through single chain.

2. Wheel: In wheel network, the superior acts as a hub of the wheel and all subordinates under him communicate only through him and are not allowed to talk among themselves.

3. Circular: Under circular network, the flow of communication is very slow and it also moves in a circle. In this network, each person can easily communicate with his adjoining persons.

4. Inverted V: Under this network, a subordinate can communicate not only with his superior but also superior’s superior. However, very limited communication takes place in this case.

Advantages of Formal Communication: The formal communication has the following advantages: 

1. Maintenance of Authority: In formal communication, the authority of superior over subordinates is well maintained. 

2. Orderly Flow of Information: The information has to pass through a definite route. Hence the flow of information is very systematic. 

3. Secrecy: In formal communication, secrecy can be maintained. 

4. Easy Knowledge of Source of Information: In this type of communication, the source of each information can be easily located.

Disadvantages of Formal Communication: 

 The following are the disadvantages of formal communication:

1.Overload of Work: It increases the work load of various managers as all communications are to be transmitted through a definite channel. 

2. Distortion of Information: Sometime the distance between the sender & the receiver is so big that the information passes through many hands & by the time it reaches the receiver it is distorted. 

3. No Personal Touch: Formal Communication is mostly conveyed in an impersonal manner. Personal warmth & involvement may be lacking

Informal Communication: 

Such type of communication spreads very fast and it is very difficult to detect the source of same. Sometime, such communication leads to rumours and thus creates confusion in the organisation. However, at times it proves to be very helpful to the managers as the information through these channels can be spread very rapidly to know the reactions of the workers etc.

Grapevine Network: 

The network of communication followed in the informal communication is referred to as grapevine network because its branches spread throughout the organisation and in all directions without considering the levels of authority etc. Origin of this type of communication is not known. In other words, it is very difficult to know as to how and where does it start/end. Following are the different types of grapevine network:

a) Single Strand: Under this network, each person can communicate with the other person in a sequence only.

b) Gossip: In gossip network, an individual can communicate with all on non selective basis. Thus one person radiates a message etc. to many at large. In other words, through just one source, information spreads to many other people.

c) Probability: In probability network, an individual communicates with other individuals at random

d) Cluster: This type of network is most common in an organisation. Under this network, an individual communicates only with those persons whom he trusts. After receiving the information, some of them convey it further to a selected few & rest of them keep it with themselves.

Advantages of Informal Communication: 

Informal Communication may lead to the following benefits: 

1. Speedy & Spontaneous: Under this communication, the messages flow at faster speed in spontaneous way. 

2. Free Environment: Informal communication is done in a free environment in that there is no pressure on any officer. It can flow to any direction and degree. 

3. Social Relations: It helps in establishing better human relations as it provides platform for employees at social gatherings not only in the organisation but outside the organisation also. 

4. Supplementing: Informal communication supplements the formal communication. There are certain matters which are difficult to communicate through formal channels e.g. attitude & opinions of the workers about management plan & policies etc. These can be easily known through informal communication

Disadvantages of Informal Communication: 

The demerits of informal communication are as under: 

1.   No Responsibility: In formal communication responsibility for misleading facts can be pinpointed but it is not so in case of informal communication. 

2. Unreliable Information: Most of the information received through this communication in undependable & no important decision can be taken on the basis of this alone. 

3.  Leakage of Information: It may lead to the leakage of important information which can prove to be harmful for the organization.

Vertical, Horizontal, Or Diagonal Communication:

Communication can be characterized as Vertical, Horizontal, Or Diagonal. Initially greater emphasis was directed at vertical organizational communication as compared to lateral communication but that is no longer the case. Diagonal communication is an even more recent emphasis in the organizational communication literature.

Vertical communication occurs between hierarchically positioned persons and can involve both downward and upward communication flows. Downward communication is more prevalent than upward communication. Larkin and Larkin (1994) suggest that downward communication is most effective if top managers communicate directlywith immediate supervisors and immediate supervisors communicate with their staff.

Downward Communication: is more than passing on information to subordinates. It may involve effectively managing the tone of the message, as well as showing skill in delegation to ensure the job is done effectively by the right person. Although the content priorities of downward communication have not been definitively demonstrated, there is some level of certainty with respect to the best approach to downward communication (Jablin 1980), i.e.,

  • Top managers should communicate directly with immediate supervisors
  • Immediate supervisors should communicate with their direct reports
  • On issues of importance, top managers should then follow-up by communicating with employees directly.

Perhaps the most tried and true rule of effective downward communication is to: Communicateorally, then follow up in writing (Gibson and Hodgetts 1991).

Upward Communication: Even less is known about upward communication. One consistent finding is that employee satisfaction with upward communication tends to be lower than their satisfaction with downward communication (Gibson 1985; Gibson and Hodgetts 1991:221-22). Larkin and Larkin (1994) found low levels of satisfaction with all the strategies commonly used to enhance upward communication, including employee surveys, suggestion programs, employee grievance programs, and employee participation programs such as quality circles and team meetings. 

Lateral Communication 

Lateral communication involves communication among persons who do not stand in hierarchical relation to one another. While recent trends to flatten organizations have enhanced the importance of lateral communications, studies on lateral communication still lag behind those on vertical communication. One fairly limited study found rather high levels of satisfaction (85 percent) with lateral communication among human resource managers (Frank1984), but lateral communication across managers of dissimilar functional divisions, while often cited as a major source of organization dysfunction, has not been subject to much empirical research. It has been assumed that lateral communication at the worker level is less problematic, at least within a functional area.

Diagonal Communication

Diagonal communication refers to communication between managers and workers located in different functional divisions (Wilson 1992). Although both vertical and horizontal communication continue to be important, these terms no longer adequately capture communication needs and flows in most modern organizations. The concept of diagonal communication was introduced to capture the new communication challenges associated with new organizational forms, such as matrix and project-based organizations

Characteristics of Communication

Most important nature or characteristics of communication are listed below: 

1. Communication involves at least two persons: Communication involves at least two persons-the sender and the receiver. The sender sends the message and is known as the communicator. The receiver receives the message and is known as communicate. 

2. Communication is a two way process: Communication is essentially a two way process. It does not merely means sending and receiving messages. It is not complete unless and until the message has been understood by the receiver in the same sense. 

3. Purpose of communication: Message is a Must. A message is the subject matter of communication. e.g., the contents of the letter or speech, order, instructions or the suggestions. A communication must convey some message. If there is no message there is no communication. The basic purpose of communication is to create an understanding. The receiver should understand the message sent and should response accordingly.

4. Form of communication: Communication may take several forms e.g. order, instruction, report, queries etc. It may be verbal or written. It may be formal or informal. 

5. Scope of communication: Communication pervades all human relationship. It is essential in all type of organizational and at all levels of management. 

6. Communication is a dynamic process: Communication is influenced by the mood and thinking of the sender and receiver. The way a message is accepted depends upon the fact that which of the fine sensory organs of the receiver is active at that time. 

7. Communication is much more than words: Communication is not merely sending or receiving facts, expressed in words. Communication May be Written, Oral or Gestural. It also involves ideas and emotions. A lot of communication is done through signs, symbols and gestures. 

8. Communication’s primary purpose is to motivate a response: The primary purpose of communication is to motivate response or influence human behaviour. There is no doubt that motivation comes from within but communicator can also motivate people by good drafting of message, proper timing of communication, etc. To create understanding, communication should be relevant to the situation. It must always be remembered that communication is a means of motivating and not an end itself. 

9. Communication is conversational: Communication sets up a link between facts, ideas, and thus helps the communicator and communicates to progress logically. 

10. Communication is an interdisciplinary science: Communication to be effective derives knowledge from several sciences like-anthropology (study of body language), sociology (study of human behaviour), psychology (study of attitude) etc 

11. Communication may be formal or informal: Formal communication follows the formal channels provided in the organisation structure. For example, the Managing Director communicates with the departmental heads, say Finance Manager, finance manager communicates to deputy finance manager, the deputy finance manager with accounts officer and so on. In simple words, in informal communication, there is no direct communication between the Managing Director and the accounts clerks. Informal communication flows from informal channels of communication which are not provided in the organisation structure. These channels develop among members because of personal contacts through working with each other. 

12. It flows up and down and also from side to side: Communication flows downward from a superior to subordinate and upward from subordinate to a superior. It also flows between two or more persons operating at the same level of authority.

Some Previous Year Questions on Meaning, types and characteristics of Communication
asked in UGC Net Paper I Exam

Q1. Which of the following set of statements is correct for describing the human communication process?

(a) Non-verbal communication can stimulate ideas.

(b) Communication is a learnt ability.

(c) Communication is not a universal panacea.

(d) Communication cannot break-down.

(e) More communication means more effective learning by students.

(f) Value of what is learnt through classroom communication is not an issue for students.


(A) (a), (c), (e) and (f)

(B) (b), (d), (e) and (f)

(C) (a), (b), (c) and (d)

(D) (a), (d), (e) and (f)

Solution: (C)


Communication has the following characteristics:

1. It is a two way process involving at least two persons.

2. It is a continuous or dynamic process. Barriers can be overcome to resume the communication.

3. Its basic purpose is to stimulate the understanding and response of the receiver.

4. Communication may be verbal or written; formal or informal; and may assume the form of an order, instruction, report, query, etc.

5. It pervades all human relationship, formal or informal.

6. Communication is verbal as well as non-verbal. Communication cannot be completely eradicated. However, it can most certainly deteriorate. When a car breaks down, it still exists; there is just something wrong with it that is causing it to malfunction. Similarly, the communication skills of many millennials have either been broken, or lay dormant, waiting to be brought to the surface. The potential for good communication is still there, it still exists, but it is not working properly. Communication isn't mechanical. It doesn't 'break down'.

7. Itis a goal oriented process, aimed at achievement of objectives, and is effective only when the goals of both the parties are in harmony. Effective communication is less about talking and more about listening. Listening well means not just understanding the words or the information being communicated, but also understanding the emotions the speaker is trying to convey.

8. It is an interdisciplinary science, deriving from anthropology (study of body language), sociology (study of human behaviour), psychology (study of attitude), etc.

9. It can straighten the bumps but does not guarantee success. Communication is not a universal panacea. Panacea refers to a solution to problems.

10. Communication skills can be learnt and improved to achieve desired results.

Q2. Effective communication pre-supposes

(A) Non-alignment

(B) Domination

(C) Passivity

(D) Understanding

Solution: (D)


Communication is the conveying of messages by exchanging thoughts or information via speech, visuals, signals, writing, or behavior. Communication requires a sender, a message, and a recipient, although the receiver may not be present or aware of the sender’s intent to communicate at the time of communication. Communication requires that the communicating parties share some area of commonality. The communication process is complete once the receiver has understood the message of the sender.

Q3. When verbal and non-verbal messages are contradictory, it is said that most people believe in:

(A) Indeterminate messages

(B) Verbal messages

(C) Non-verbal messages

(D) Aggressive messages

Solution: (C)


People tend to pay more attention to how you say something rather than what you actually say. You communicate nonverbally more than you engage in verbal communication, and often use nonverbal expressions to add to, or even replace, words you might otherwise say.

Q4. Imagine you are working in an educational institution where people are of equal status? Which method of communication is best suited and normally employed in such a context?

(A) Horizontal communication

(B) Vertical communication

(C) Corporate communication

(d) Cross communication

Solution: (A)


Horizontal communication occurs between people holding the same hierarchical position. Both written and oral methods are used to make horizontal communication effective.

Horizontal vs. Vertical communication

· When information flows between persons holding the same position in the in the organization, it is called horizontal communication. When communication occurs between superior and subordinates, it is called vertical communication.

· The purpose of horizontal communication is to coordinate the activities of various departments and divisions of the organization. The purpose of vertical communication is to provide necessary orders, instructions, and directives to the subordinates in a downward direction; and receiving suggestion, opinions and feedback from the subordinates in upward direction.

· In this communication, information flows between people holding same rank and status. In this communication, information flows form superior to subordinates and vice-versa.

· Horizontal communication enjoys greater degree of informality. Vertical communication is more formal than horizontal communication.

· Horizontal communication is mostly done through oral media. Vertical communication is mostly done through written media.

Corporate communication is a management function or department, like marketing, finance, or operations, dedicated to the dissemination of information to key constituencies, the execution of corporate strategy and the development of messages for a variety of purposes for inside and outside the organisation.

Cross-cultural communication is a field of study that looks at how people from differing cultural backgrounds communicate, in similar and different ways among themselves, and how they endeavor to communicate across cultures. Intercultural communication is a related field of study

Q5. Assertion (A): Formal communication tends to be fast and flexible.

Reason (R): Formal communication is a systematic and orderly flow of information.

(A) Both (A) and (R) are correct and (R) is correct explanation of (A)

(B) Both (A) and (R) are correct, but (R) is not correct explanation of (A)

(C) (A) is correct but, (R) is false

(D) (A) is false but, (R) is correct

Solution: (D)

Formal Communication: A type of verbal communication in which the interchange of information is done through the pre-defined channels is known as formal communication. 

In Formal Communication the speed of communication is Slow.

Informal Communication: A type of verbal communication in which the interchange of information does not follow any channels i.e. the communication stretches in all directions.

In Informal Communication the speed of communication is very fast.

In the next article, we are going to discuss Classroom Communication under the Unit IV (Communication) for UGC NET General Paper-1 on Teaching and Research Aptitude.

Check out our Full Course on UGC Net Paper 1 (Teaching and Research Aptitude) for upcoming UGC Net Examination - Click Here

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