Two-way communication is a process by which two people or groups are able to communicate with each other in a reciprocal way. This means that one person or group expresses an idea, which is received and understood by the other person or group. The receiver processes what has been said, and returns with a message that is then received by the initial speaker, allowing both sides in this process to communicate and understand each other. Two-way communication can also refer to a type of public relations process in which a company and another group exchange ideas.
The basic idea behind a two-way communication is that there are two parties involved and each one is able to express itself and receive information from the other. This is in contrast to forms of communication in which only one party is able to express itself, such as a radio or television broadcast. The ability for each party in this type of communication to elaborate upon ideas and express them coherently is vital to this process. While verbal forms of expression are often important, non-verbal communication and additional feedback is typically used to ensure that each party accurately understands the other one.
There are a number of different ways in which people can engage in two-way communication, often through various devices or mediums. Face-to-face contact typically occurs as two or more people are gathered together within the same space and can talk to each other directly. This allows for the greatest possible range of communication, as verbal and non-verbal signals can typically be received. The use of a telephone to facilitate two-way communication can be quite effective, since it allows for inflection and tone of voice to contribute to the meaning of a statement. Letters and written formats of expression, including email and text messages, can be useful, but lack the subtlety and nuance often found in verbal exchanges.
In marketing or public relations (PR), there are two basic processes that are often referred to as “two-way communication.” Asymmetric communications occur between two parties, but one of them typically has more “power” or “control” over the process. This is typically a large company that is engaging in PR to communication different ideas to the general public or to specific markets.
Symmetric two-way communication, on the other hand, occurs between two parties that are equals within the process. A company might use this type of process to allow customers to provide greater feedback that is then considered for improvements and changes to the business. This form of expression often allows the customer to feel more powerful and have a greater sense of importance to the company with which he or she communicates.