The Strategist

Four levels of business communication

09/10/2021 - 05:37

Communication helps build interactions between different groups and organizations. Conversations, especially in a business environment, often follow the same patterns. There can be four types of such communication patterns, and a leader should help the team to move from one stage to another, depending on the tasks at hand.

Jason Bickley
Jason Bickley

Loading language is often used in formal meetings. It is essentially just a formal exchange of general phrases. We learn the loading language as early as high school, when we get used to saying what the teacher wants us to hear. So what is wrong with this kind of communication? First of all, it prevents team members from saying what they are really thinking. Meetings turn into an exchange of polite comments, while real issues are discussed behind the back, in the smoking rooms, canteens, and other inappropriate places. The greater the gap between what is said and the real situation, the greater the likelihood of system failure. In such a communication, the participants only talk about the points that fit into the usual picture of the world.


With the loading language, it is important for participants to agree with the generally accepted norms. The hallmark of a debate, however, is the desire to take a stance different than that of everyone else. When an employee says that he does not understand anything from the presentation given, or a manager declares that the adopted strategy is detrimental to the business, this is a debate. Such statements raise the degree of tension and make communication uncomfortable. However, there is a silver lining. 

Expressing different views allows you to play openly. To bring negotiators into the space of debate, there is a Japanese practice to divide people into small groups in which they exchange opinions. It helps "to save face" when you express your disagreement to the boss - it's as if you are acting on behalf of the group.


Dialogue is needed when discussing problems that require participants to change their habitual way of thinking and reasoning. To do this, they need to learn to see assumptions based on which their opponent is speaking. The transition from debate to dialogue is the transition from trying to refute the opponent's point of view to trying to clarify opinions.

Collaborative Creativity

When communication moves to a higher level, the team generates new ideas and meanings. It is similar to the interaction in a jazz team: each participant is focused on himself or herself, but is listening intently to the shared music. At such moments, new ideas emerge, ideas flow from one interlocutor to the next without anyone seeking to appropriate them for themselves. This is collective creativity, the art of thinking together. When listening and communicating move to the generative stage, people's experience changes significantly. If we want to achieve significant, life-changing results in communication, we must learn how to create together.

Based on “The Essentials of Theory U. Core Principles and Applications” by C. Otto Scharmer