A workplace can have both, communication and conversation. The difference between the two is essential to know.

Communication Vs Conversation: What Are the Differences?

There is a widespread notion that conversing with someone means communicating with them. The reality is far from this idea.

While communication and conversation might seem to be the same thing, they’re not. There is some overlap in the process that’s involved in making the two of these happen, but there are some very substantial and nuanced differences that we will discover at length in this article. 

The main difference between the two is that while conversation can be the means of communication, it does not work the same the other way round.

What do ‘communication’ and ‘conversation’ mean?

It’s good to clear out some basics before we dive into the differences. The basics involve understanding the epistemology and meaning of the words. 

An instance of interaction taking place between two people, is it conversation or communication?

Communication is what happens when one party carries a well-curated message and makes sure it’s delivered to the desired party in an intended manner. Conversation is chatter, it’s the verbal exchange of words that is not necessarily well thought of. It can be casual. 

It must be noted that they’re not mutually exclusive. 

What are the big differences between Conversation and Communication?

Talking is not the same as telling.

There is not one, but multiple differences between the two. They are listed below:

One/Two-way affair

One of the main differences between communication I’m conversation is that conversation is a two way affair while communication CAN be a one way affair.

You see, one of the essential things that makes a conversation a conversation is that it takes place promptly between two parties. There is somebody who speaks and there is somebody who responds to what was just said.

The whole idea of communication is about conveyance. It is to make sure that the intended message is received and understood by the entity it was made for. They may or may not reciprocate with a response.

Means

Another big distinction between conversation and communication takes place when it comes to the means through which they happen.

Be it verbal or via text, a conversation always warrants an understanding of language. It cannot take place unless both parties not just understand a particular language but are also able to speak in it.

The means of communication, on the other hand, are slightly more in number. One can communicate via a conversation, through text, email, recorded videos, actions, movements, even facial expressions. 

The act of communicating doesn’t have to involve both parties knowing a particular common language to ground their interaction on. 

Purpose

Communication and conversation may also differ in their purposes. Communication involves intention and active planning. It involves organisation and planning of thought. Words are said with a purpose. 

For example, when a salesman tries to talk to a customer, they’re not just conversing. They’re conversing with a purpose. He intends to sell the product, so he tries to communicate to the client why it would be viable for them to purchase it. 

All of their conversation is done for a very legitimate act of business. Selling and buying.

Meanwhile a conversation may take place with no particular purpose. It can be a mindless casual affair between two people.

Have you never bumped into a neighbor at the mall and made “small talk”?

The difference between the purpose of communication and conversation is the presence and potential absence of it respectively

Conclusion

A conversation may or may not have a well defined conclusion. You could debate with your friend about which Marvel movie is the best for hours and still have different opinions at the end of it all and you might agree to disagree. 

You might leave it hanging in the air. 

When you’re trying to communicate though, one of the most important things to keep in mind is that the process of communication always ties an end to itself. 

There is a well-defined conclusion that’s reached at the end. It mostly happens when the message is received. 

Process

Have you ever had times when you just sit with someone and before you know it, within minutes you’re talking about something you’re both interested in? Most coffee shop/ commute/ bar conversations take place that way.

Communication, on the other hand, is a process. It’s not a spontaneous act. Of course, experienced communicators can make it happen spontaneously but we’re talking generally here. 

A speaker being able to spontaneously communicate through conversation.

Words

You must be thinking how can words distinguish between conversation and communication? If anything, words are a commonality between them. But you’re mistaken. 

A conversationalist might know their way around words, but a good communicator knows the nuances of the silences between them. And mind you, they’re equally important. To know more, check out Body Language And Its Contribution To The Process Of Communication

A conversationalist will have interesting things to say and the ability to drive a conversation forwards by blabbering, but an effective communicator will take notice of the momentary lapses of pondering and let the other party have some reflective space., an essential part of communication. 

Reflective space is giving some time to ponder upon what was said to the person you’re communicating with

If you intend to explore the nuances of conversation further, check out our article about How Public Speaking is Different from Casual Conversation

What is more effective? Communication or Conversation?

The answer to this questions is not one or the other, in fact, it’s one THROUGH the other. Yes, you read that right. Any process of communication is enormously more effective when done through words. That is to say, conversation makes the process of communication much more enriching.

It’s because conversation provides a much wider scope to communicate. When you’re conversing with someone in person, you can read their facial expressions and body language. For example, if someone starts fidgeting their leg while you’re talking, it’s a sign they’re probably bored and losing interest. This could be used as a signal to drive the conversation in another direction for the purpose of communicating well.

You see, one of the prime reasons of communication is that it’s done to INFLUENCE others. More often than not, it’s done to accomplish something. Be it a sale, or a client deal, or a job interview. And a conversation gives you much more access to the person you wish to communicate with. It’s really the perfect blend.

When communication and conversation come together, the process becomes more effective. Especially for official purpose like an office deal.

Really, the goal is pretty simple here: Effective communication. To know more, see Ineffective Communication Explained: And How To Avoid It

Conclusion

Communication and Conversation aren’t like two sides of the same coin, they are like cake and icing. You can have cake, but icing it makes it much more delicious. Similarly, a conversation that is intended to communicate, is almost always way more meaningful than a conversation that’s not.

Hrideep Barot is the founder and chief writer at Frantically Speaking, a portal to help people learn everything about public speaking. The purpose of franticallyspeaking.com is to showcase the lessons that he has learned (and still learning) from his numerous stage experiences and mentors over all these years.

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