Formal Or Informal Communication Break Downs And The 3 Levels Of Verbal Communication

In my experience on the topic of formal or informal communication I have observed that

1) Most communication breakdowns happen because of misunderstandings

2) And misunderstandings happen when communication is out of context

Communication is always “contextual” whether it is formal or informal, verbal or nonverbal. Being aware of the contextual part of communication is the responsibility of everyone to think before sending or receiving. It means to always bring into the picture the recognition of the immediate surrounding of a given issue or matter being communicated.

When faced with a communication breakdown, the question for us to always ask is this: “What is the context within which this communication situation is taking place?”

As in a book where the text is the actual group of words being read, the context is the surrounding information, the details, the story, the places, the characters, etc.

So, where is the conversation within the context of the issue? Is the problem happening at the sender’s end of the communication or at the receiver’s end? Where is the misunderstanding? Then focus your communication recovery there.

Communication is never independent of context whether it is formal or informal.

The Three Levels of Verbal Communication.

Before we can improve verbal communication and increase its effectiveness, we need to understand how it works and where the players fit within that communication.

First, when we communicate, there is always a sender (speaker) and a receiver (listener).

Second, the communication itself contains 3 elements:

A) the Information being communicated such as issue, topic, subject, instruction, opinion etc.

B) the Means by which this information is being communicated (verbal, nonverbal, written, using telephone, face to face, letter, book, etc.)

C) the Way in which the information is being communicated (how we use our words, tone of voice, writing style, organized or disorganized manner, etc.)

Both sides have three levels of Active Responsibility to process the activities used in communication:

Level I:

This is where the actual exchange of communication takes place between the sender and receiver which contains the above three elements.

Level II:

This is where the Translating and Interpreting of that communication happens. This is done by the thought processes of each the Sender and the Receiver according to each his/her experiences, and frame
of references in their various walks of life (business, personal, moral, ethical, etc.).

This is where the major complications of communication arise (good or bad connection). If everyone thought the same, saw things the same way or reacted in the same manner, communication would be
straightforward. However, it doesn’t happen that way.

Level III:

This is where we get and give Feedback, Understanding and Awareness:.


Both sides are responsible to see that the communication has been Sent and Received as intended. This is identified by asking the right questions at the right times. “Can you please repeat the steps for closing the shop, to make sure I didn’t leave anything out?” “Let me run through the requirements as I understand you’ve outlined them”. Both sides ask for feedback when needed.


Effective communication requires a common Understanding between the parties communicating. The Sender Transmits with Understanding to the Receiver. The Receiver Interprets with Understanding from the Sender.


Finally, each side requires an Awareness of the many interferences also going on, such as cultural differences, linguistics, diction, clarity of speech and expression, verbal, nonverbal parts, etc.

Whether we are in Formal or Informal Communication, we are all subject and vulnerable to break downs. Understanding this and the 3 Levels of Verbal Communication that we can watch for will help us improve and perfect as much as we can our own communication as well as help other to communicate better. /dmh

Diane M. Hoffmann is the founder of Hoffmann-Rondeau Communications and the web site which is the home of free articles and tips, her e-books “Improve Communication, Verbal and Nonverbal” and “Improve Communication, Organization and Training” as well as her 296-page printed book “Contextual Communication, Organization and Training”. Article copyright(c)2009/10/11 Diane M. Hoffmann. You may reprint this article making sure to include this bio with no changes.

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Informal Communication – How It Differs From Formal Communication

Both informal communication and formal communication take place in any organization whether it be business or our personal family lives. But we need to recognize the difference.

Informal communication is casual and spontaneous, whereas formal communication is more thought-out and prepared from learned experiences or organized training that present rules and conventions authoritated by business and formal etiquette.

Informal communication comes from communication activities outside of those formally learned at home through discipline, or at school through education, or in business through our own personal experiences and formal training.

It falls under the social communication of grapevines and rumors, casual conversations and inter-relational activities outside of the formal or public arenas.

We do not behave the same way at work as we do at home or at play. I always say that people are at their best at work. We really don’t know someone until we’ve stayed with them outside of work for a few days-or a few hours even, with some people.

Informal communication may not be as reliant as formal communication where more accountability is expected. In an organizational setting, such as business, or association and the like, communication is connected with official status-quo or protocols of the formal channels of structure and culture which the line of manager/subordinate reporting system is expectedly accepted.

In order to understand informal communication, we need to understand formal communication and then realize that informal communication is what takes place without the formal addition of convention and ceremonies.

In business the different forms of formal communication include departmental functionality, activities taking place within meeting and conference settings, verbal and written communication through telephone, memos and bulletins, etc.

It is safe to also recognize that informal communication may be vulnerable to being deceptive and imprecise in its casualness – conscious or unconscious. In a formal setting, people take the time to recognize the consequences of transmitting any wrong or incomplete information. But in an informal setting, the quality of communication may be affected by the more relaxed or careless attitude or behaviour.

However, both formal and informal communication is found in an organization, depending on the level of business experience and training one possesses in his or her personal life. An organization can make efficient use of informal communication by confirming and affirming that which is being communicated by the untrained or less trained individual.

Informal communication, like formal communication can be expressed verbally or non-verbally by words, tone of voice, signs such as glances and gestures and even silence. For the purpose of effective communication, one needs to identify and affirm anything that may be communicated, if unsure of the true meaning behind the communicator./dmh

Diane M. Hoffmann is the founder of Hoffmann-Rondeau Communications and the web site which is the home of her e-books “Improve Communication, Verbal and Nonverbal” and “Improve Communication, Organization and Training” as well as her 296-page printed book “Contextual Communication, Organization and Training”. You may reprint this article making sure to include this bio with no changes.

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Informal Communication

Besides the flow of information through the standard channels, in every organization a flow of informal information also exists. In an army as well as in business there are many invisible informal information channels which are important for the mutual understanding and co-operation. Informal contacts between colleagues are a countermeasure against the ubiquitous bureaucracy. When there is a positive atmosphere, employees often take the initiative to redress a situation. In this way many mistakes are spontaneously fixed. Frictions and problems are quickly spotted and rectified.

Management should stimulate these informal communication channels because it is impossible to cover everything by means of procedures. Good managers understand this and will try to keep these channels open or even create them, like Montgomery did (see case The Phantom System). Such informal communication channels perform even better when the focus and the strategic goals of the company are understood throughout the entire organization.

Two cases:

Case The Phantom System

General Montgomery, Supreme Commander of Eighth Army in North Africa during WW II (and later in Europe), received – like every Commander – the routine situation reports on a daily basis, which his staff prepared, next to those from the different units of his vast army. But he did not want to only rely on these routine channels of information. Montgomery took the revolutionary step of establishing his “Phantom” system of liaison officers. These were carefully selected young soldiers chosen for their bravery, their initiative, their manners and their independence. This corps d’√©lite had unusual powers. They had carte blanche to travel anywhere and observe anything, but had no power of command. They were the eyes and the ears of the commander. Each morning they drove out to the farthermost parts of the front, using motorcycles, jeeps, or aircraft (Piper Cubs) and then returned to report directly to Montgomery late in the afternoon. They just told him what they saw. In this way Montgomery, in addition to the routine daily reports from the different units, also received the latest first-hand eye witness view from the entire front.

Despite the special position of these young men there was never any friction between them and the units they visited, because of the manner in which Montgomery handled this group of liaison officers and the information they gathered.

A British Carton Cylinder Manufacturer

The sales director of a British manufacturer which made carton cylinders for the protection and transportation of documents and was also specialized in manufacturing products like cigarette filters, carton cylinders for batteries and so on, instructed the drivers of his delivery trucks that when they delivered to customers they should watch to see if any trucks of competitors were also at the delivery yards of his customers. They reported to him which competitors they saw and because of their friendly contacts built up with the customer’s personnel over the years, they could sometimes even give him detailed information about what products were delivered. One day the board of directors discussed the outsourcing of their logistics to a professional trucking company. The sales director protested vehemently against this decision because then he would lose his carefully developed eyes and ears. After explaining his motives the board withdrew their decision. To systematically obtain important information about the competition, this director had unwittingly created his own “Phantom” system, just like Montgomery did.

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Major in Information Communications Technology

According to Steve Ballmer, Microsoft CEO, “the number one benefit of information technology is that it empowers people to do what they want to do. It lets people be creative. It lets people be productive. It lets people learn things they didn’t think they could learn before, and so in a sense it is all about potential.” In accordance with this conviction, and in the face of rapidly evolving modern times, one can be assured of the benefits of a proper education in the field of Information Communication Technology.

A major in Information Communication Technology is essentially the key to opening doors around the world for quicker, more efficient exchange of knowledge. Today, our world is truly global; global in its true sense, as individuals from a rural village in Sub-Saharan Africa are able to communicate with those in the commercialized city of Manhattan. In addition to communication, these technological advancements have assisted us in boosting commerce within underdeveloped countries, including India and Brazil. Though much of the 6 billion people on this Earth are living in unacceptable conditions, with nearly 3 billion who survive on less than two dollars a day, Information Communication Technology is enabling some of these disparities to diminish. For example, a developing country in Asia can make up for several years of underdevelopment simply by jumping ahead now with innovative ideas. By keeping up with the current technological trends, a country can practically leap out of devastation. Although it is very unlikely that an impoverished country would have the resources to focus on inventing such technology, the most pragmatic solution is investing in one’s future, particularly through education.

We are far past of the age when information had to travel by ship, for several months, before a single message was conveyed. Now, one can simply be “wired” and, with the phenomenon of the Internet, connect with practically anyone around the globe. The marvels of this medium are even more surprising when one considers the expeditious developments that have taken place in a time period of less than 20 years; from a time when the Internet was nonexistent to a time when one virtually cannot exist without access to the Internet.

While the Information Communication Technology industry is constantly expanding, demands for individuals well acquainted with such topics are increasing, perhaps more rapidly, due to each country’s desire to excel and initiate projects in this field in an effort to compete in the global game of technology. With a professional background in Information Communication Technology, one is better trained to predict the trends of the future as well as prepare for those trends.

Every corporation in America, independent of its size, needs individuals qualified in the field of Information Communication Technology. A few of these professions include: network engineers, software developers, and data center managers. The best way to prepare for the future is by understanding the factors that influence the future, and thus predicting the necessary actions that will ease these stresses.

Sally is a dedicated writer for She is an expert in IT School Scholarships, Financial Aid, Career Advice, and most other things college related.

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