What Is Two-way Communication? Definition and Benefits

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 5 May 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Communication is a crucial skill in business because it can help establish boundaries, convey expectations, relay problems or concerns and facilitate collaboration. Two-way communication is a style of communication that depends on two parties and can inspire trust between them. Understanding what two-way communication is and how it works can help you increase your communication skills with other people and create better professional relationships to expand your network. In this article, we define this type of communication, explore its benefits, compare it to one-way communication and offer tips for improving communication at work.

What is two-way communication?

Two-way communication is any interpersonal communication where two people are interacting with each other. This kind of communication depends on equal participation from both parties, where the conversation continuously moves back and forth from one person to the other. Effective communication is often a requirement for many kinds of jobs and for developing professional relationships.

Read more: 4 Types of Communicators and How They Fit in the Workplace

What are the benefits of two-way communication?

Mastering this type of communication can have multiple benefits for professionals. These include:

Builds respect and trust

One of the major benefits of mastering this kind of communication is that it can help build respect and trust between two people. For example, if an employer and their employee engage in this kind of communication, they can properly explain their concerns and expectations, so there's no confusion. The employee may appreciate a more transparent communication method and show greater respect for an employer that also respects their opinions.

Employers may appreciate when an employee can explain themselves and understand new ideas. This mutual trust and respect can improve employee morale and employer confidence to create a more positive workplace.

Establishes expectations and responsibilities

Effective communication also helps establish more clear and concrete expectations and responsibilities between two parties. For example, if a client engages in this type of communication with a freelancer, they can more effectively describe what they expect in a final product, which can help guide the freelancer while they perform their work. Expectations are crucial for developing trust because they help determine what each person expects from a conversation and any resulting actions, promoting accountability and responsibility for both parties. When each party meets expectations, they can mutually benefit from greater trust and desirable outcomes.

Read more: What Is Communication? (And Its Importance in the Workplace)

Allows everyone to provide their opinion

Another great benefit of this communication type is that it allows everyone to provide their opinion. Being heard can make a person feel more appreciated, respected and inspire more confidence in their relationship with an organisation. For example, if an entry-level employee within an organisation has the same ability to communicate with management as a veteran, they might feel more job satisfaction about their position within a company. They can communicate concerns or problems under the assumption that management is interested and may take appropriate actions.

Encourages collaboration

This type of communication can also help encourage more effective collaboration between teams, clients and professionals or employers and employees. Collaborative projects typically depend heavily on a team's ability to communicate with each other to produce various deliverables. If a team masters this kind of communication, they can talk among themselves and work through obstacles more efficiently, better understand client or employer expectations and strengthen relationships between individual team members. Team members may be more willing to communicate their opinions and concerns, which can help provide more perspective on a project and create a stronger overall framework for a team.

Enhances team or relationship accountability

Accountability is another crucial factor in interpersonal relationships and teamwork, because it ensures that each person in a project or conversation is accountable for their words and actions. This encourages mutual responsibility and can reinforce each person's stance or position in the company. For example, if two team members consistently communicate about their portion of an upcoming deadline, they can both determine what to expect on delivery day and provide and receive frequent progress updates. This level of accountability may reduce the managerial workload for team leaders and create more independent and productive teams.

Read more: How to Improve Your Communication Skills at Work in 10 Steps

Two-way vs. one-way communication

One-way communication, another common style of communication, has some stark differences to consider. Here are some key differences between these two types of communication:

Required response

In one-way communication, the sender of information doesn't require any kind of response from the recipient. This can make the process of communication more efficient, since the sender doesn't require any feedback. Two-way requires a response, which may slow down the process of communication but can increase the accuracy and quality of messages. One-way communication styles may receive feedback later to refine their message or delivery methods, such as online feedback for a TV show.

Accuracy of the message

Since one-way communication doesn't require feedback or a response, it may result in more inaccurate interpretations of a message than two-way interpersonal communication. For example, if a news broadcast reports that the stock market dropped by 10 points overnight, the recipient of the message depends on the broadcaster to report accurate information. If two parties are conversing instead, the recipient of this information can ask certain questions to verify the information and use scepticism to arrive at a more balanced conclusion.

Rapidity of message

One-way communication is often a more rapid communication method. Awaiting feedback or responses may slow the communication process, so one-way communication can deliver a message quickly. Two-way interpersonal communication can still occur rapidly, especially with in-person communications. For example, two people may converse about project requirements, describing their parameters quickly and expanding on the one-way communication from a project manager, which arrived as written directions for a project. The rapidness of a message is often critical for time-sensitive projects and information.

Read more: 8 Interview Questions on Communication Skills (With Tips)

Quality of information

One-way communication may reduce the quality of a message by including the sender's personal biases. This can occur with public broadcasts like news casts, newspapers or other media channels. For example, a newspaper with donors from a particular political party might skew information to be more friendly to that party's interests. The recipients of this information may receive lower-quality information for the sake of political influence. Two-way interpersonal communication can still produce low-quality information, but allows both parties to discuss the information and ask pertinent questions to reach a more mutually agreed conclusion.

Frequency of information

One-way communication often occurs on a regular schedule. For example, a newscast can occur at the same time each night. Two-way interpersonal communication can also occur regularly, such as through weekly meetings, but one-way typically sends more information on a more regular basis. While this can mean a recipient may receive more information from one-way communication, the factors of information quality and accuracy still apply. More information being provided more often doesn't necessarily mean that the information is accurate, high-quality or relevant.

Tips for facilitating better communication

If you want to facilitate better two-way interpersonal communication, here are some helpful tips:

  • Learn from feedback: Two-way interpersonal communication relies heavily on feedback from both the sender and the recipient. Learn from the feedback you receive, noting specific patterns to address behaviours and enhance your communication style while also providing valuable feedback to the other participant.

  • Set firm expectations: Expectations can help each party better understand what the other expects from the relationship, conversation or project. Set firm expectations and reinforce them by communicating those expectations when necessary.

  • Adapt communication style: Your personal communication style can impact how you communicate with other people, so it's important to understand and adapt it to a listener. For example, if you're conversing with something that has a less technical background, try reducing the number of technical terms you include in the conversation.

  • Learn how others communicate: It's also important to study the communication styles of people you converse with frequently, so you can communicate in a way that appeals more to their communication style. This may help reduce errors and frustrations by increasing the trust and understanding between each party.

  • Include non-verbal cues: Non-verbal communication is an important factor in two-way and one-way communication, so it's important to learn to read and use them. For example, you may use your hands to improve the impact of a message and to express urgency.

  • Active listening: One of the best ways to become a better communicator is by actively listening to others. Active listening can help improve your understanding of a person's message, which may also help improve the quality of your response and make communication more efficient with fewer misunderstandings.

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