When we want to communicate something to others, one of the most important decisions we have to make after deciding WHAT we want to communicate, is HOW. That’s where the communication “channel” comes in. In 1720, our options were pretty much limited to face-to-face communication or sending a written letter. In 2020, we have a lot of channels to choose from, such as:
- Face-to-face (live or virtual)
- Voice mail
- Text messaging
- Instant messaging
- Group video conferencing/calling
- And more!
Unfortunately, many people make the wrong choice for the wrong reasons when it comes time to communicate. In fact, the biggest mistake I see people make is choosing the channel that’s most convenient for them without thinking of what’s best or most convenient for their audience or what’s most appropriate for the message.
At a time in our world where people are feeling more disconnected than ever before, how you choose to communicate can either create connection and cohesion or a sense of isolation and despair.
Let’s face it, 2020 has been a difficult year. I don’t think too many of us thought we’d still be social distancing and working remotely in October! As a result, in many organizations, communication between leaders and their teams has been reduced to email and text messages because these forms of communication are quick and easy, and let’s face it, we’re lazy. Another reason people turn to written communication forms is live, human interaction can often be uncomfortable, especially when the message being communicated isn’t welcome- such as negative feedback. As a result, people choose “Cowardice by Technology,” hiding behind their computers and phone screens sending messages electronically because they don’t have the ba . . . guts to either face others with bad news.
It’s time to stop taking the easy way out with communication and instead be more thoughtful in how we communicate with others.
Asking yourself these six questions BEFORE you choose your communication channel or method will help ensure more effective communication between you and others.
- What’s the receiver’s preferred communication method? Using others’ preferred method, rather than your own, increases the chance of your message being received.
- How quickly does the information need to go out? If you have to get information to a large group of people quickly, email is probably faster than making a bunch of phone calls or getting everyone together for a meeting. If the information is just for one person, a call might be quicker than taking the time to formulate a well-written email or arranging a time to meet.
- Do I need a response quickly? If I need an immediate response, a phone call or text might be the way to go, especially if I know the other party doesn’t spend a lot of time at his or her desk.
- How complicated is the message? A complex message usually needs time to digest. At the same time, it may also generate a lot of questions. It may be best to send an email and follow up with a call or face-to-face, than to try to explain a complicated idea in a phone call. If the complex message needs to go to a group of people and will generate a lot of questions, it might be best to hold a meeting where everyone can hear the answers at the same time.
- How likely is the message to be misinterpreted? If the likelihood is high, then it might be a better idea to meet face-to-face, or pick up the phone, than to send a written message. That way you can answer any questions and provide clarification.
- Is the information personal or is it bad news? If the answer is yes, you should probably deliver it face-to-face, or if that’s impossible or will deliver the information too late, then contacting the person by phone might be best.