There are so many forms of communication in today’s professional environment. Professional communication has evolved from a face-to-face, memo, or phone-driven form to so much more in today’s business. The emergence of voice mail, email, instant messaging, video conference, and texting has changed how, when, and with whom we interact. The list will only continue to grow as new technologies emerge.
The dynamics of our interpersonal and small group discussions are impacted based on the communication preferences and choices people make. For example, our ability to more actively listen and be sensitive to voice cues is heightened when we are on the phone, versus being in person. Attention spans are also impacted by other factors. You can be on a conference call with twenty people, and a few participants have side conversations via instant messenger or email. Their attention and engagement are impacted and may influence others around them. Other people may be conducting non-related business on the side that they see as a higher priority. Face-to-face meetings and video conferencing to some extent have their own communication influences brought about by non-verbal messaging by allowing the participants to see facial expressions and reactions.
The ability to type messages instantly also has its own pros and cons. The messages are typically short and concise. However, there is often a lack of context in the message which may force the need to have significant clarification back and forth. I have found outside of the many symbols being used to express our emotions during an instant text message interaction (emoticons), overreaction is brought into the text message interchange due to the immediacy of the channel. People have a tendency to quickly type a response and hit send as it is going through their mind. Emotion has always been there in the past; however, emotion emitted through channels such as text and email may have responses come more quickly and therefore less thoughtfully.
The lack of proofreading and editing during these quick exchanges has caused many communication issues when a message is sent to an unintended recipient (e.g., you are thinking of them when sending), unnecessary multiple recipients (e.g., reply all), and credibility of the sender if there are significant spelling or grammatical errors. In the latter example, the entire meaning of the message can be altered with the omission of a word. For example, “Your request is approved” is a lot different than “Your request is not approved.”
You should also understand how your peers and managers would like you to communicate with them, and you should make your expectations known as to how you prefer to communicate. I have had many people who never respond when I send them emails. However, these same individuals are always willing to communicate via instant text message. Some people prefer constant written communication using email and instant text message and can go back and forth all day. I personally prefer picking up the phone if I see multiple emails and instant messages going back and forth. For example, I have set the example that I prefer not to have an email or instant text message go back and forth more than twice before picking up the phone. However, this is simply my preference. One time, I found I was inadvertently annoying a colleague whenever I sent them an instant message. I would ask if she was available. If she responded “yes” I would provide my phone number to call me. She finally sent me a note asking why I always assumed she was available for a phone call. She was available for the instant text message session and just didn’t know that I preferred the phone.
When possible, we need to understand what works best for everyone and do what we can to accommodate that in the best interest of enhancing the communication experience. The key is to know what works best for the people we communicate with most often. When that isn’t clear, ask the obvious but often missed question, “What is the best way to communicate with you?”
Thomas B. Dowd III’s books available in softcover, eBook, and audiobook (From Fear to Success only):
- Now What? The Ultimate Graduation Gift for Professional Success
- Time Management Manifesto: Expert Strategies to Create an Effective Work/Life Balance
- Displacement Day: When My Job was Looking for a Job…A Reference Guide to Finding Work
- The Transformation of a Doubting Thomas: Growing from a Cynic to a Professional in the Corporate World
- From Fear to Success: A Practical Public-speaking Guide received the Gold Medal at the 2013 Axiom Business Book Awards in Business Reference
- The Unofficial Guide to Fatherhood
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