Effective communication in the electronic age

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phonecallWith the development of electronic communication, choosing the right way to deliver messages has become more complex than ever.

The choice of method used can say much more than the message itself – and not always what the originator intended.

For example, telling employees they are sacked by text, or even by email, says a lot about an organisation and its management, but not in a good way.

Twitter, the social media darling, also has its limitations. No matter what the situation is, trying to get messages across in 140 characters is always going to be a challenge.  There is little room for nuance, background, or scene setting.

Today there seems to be a trend to send messages the easiest (or perhaps cheapest) way possible, not the most effective. Yet picking the right way to communicate can make a big difference to the result achieved and the effectiveness of the communication.

Email is now used for most routine communication for businesses, both internally and externally, while text is taking over in personal communication and is also used increasingly by business. Nonetheless, electronic communication can have its drawbacks, particularly if the implications are not thought through.

Generally speaking, any form of written message is a one-way communication:  you send a message and unless you get a reply, you don’t really know how it’s interpreted and don’t get much feedback.

With email, while the implied sense of urgency is not as strong these days, there still appears to be pressure on people to make reply immediately or not at all. Generally there seems to be less and less time for thinking in business because of electronic communication, but that’s a different story.

While face-to-face, or even phone, conversations might take more time, they are often the most effective.

Two-way communication, such as a phone call or a meeting, allows questions to be asked, points to be clarified, or additional thoughts explored.

Face-to-face conversations often bring other useful facts to light, and body language also comes into play.

Even phone conversations can draw out useful information.  Take the simple example of an invitation to journalists to a function.  A group email invitation may not draw a useful response, except a “Can’t make it” or “I’ll try to be there”.  However, preceding this with a phone call to some of the journalists might lead to the discovery that there’s another function scheduled on the same day.

So while texts and emails are becoming the norm for message delivery, they’re not always the best method. Careful consideration of the outcomes sought before communicating will also help in the choice of medium to use to get the desired result.