How smart are YOUR Communication Choices?
Do you remember that classic United Airlines TV commercial? The one where a company leader announces they have lost one of their oldest customers because they didn’t know us anymore? The CEO’s passionate response to his assembled staff discussed the frustration and ineffectiveness of communicating with faxes, voice mails and emails. He closed the assembly by handing out airline tickets so his people could return to the less efficient, yet more effective way of building relationships: face-to-face contact. You may remember that he took the last plane ticket to personally reconnect with that lost customer.
So what’s really changed in the eight years since this commercial ran?
- We now use faxes less and email attachments more. (Thank you, Bill Gates and Al Gore)
- We now have e-tickets!
- Most of us admit that email overload is a bigger obstacle to our productivity.
But is the CEO’s message more or less valid today? Aren’t we even more inclined to choose less personal methods of communicating?
Why do we choose email over personal contact?
- We can send the message any time we have email access.
- The recipient can read it at his/her convenience.
- We can spread a message rapidly to multiple contacts.
- We can attach and transmit supporting documents.
- We want to save time.
- We can avoid personal contact and verbal feedback.
While there certainly are some compelling reasons for choosing electronic communication, let’s examine some potential pitfalls with items 5 and 6.
We need to save time
By inhibiting the oral and nonverbal give and take of the communication process, how do we know if our message is properly received? What happens when we miss the glazed look or indignant expression of the recipient? We’re unaware that our unread message was deleted or skimmed with 100 others. What have we really saved?
Avoiding personal contact and verbal feedback.
If the purpose of communication is to induce actions, behaviors or responses from the recipient, is email the most effective way to serve this purpose? By eliminating critical elements of body language, facial expressions and voice intonation, we lose the opportunity to adjust our communication in real time to assure understanding. If our message is not properly understood, have we defeated this purpose?
What Influences Understanding of Communication?
Studies show that in face- to-face communication, understanding is influenced…
- 55% by Body Language
- 38% by Tone of Voice
- 7% by Words
For telephone communication, understanding is influenced…
- 84% by Tone of Voice
- 16% by Words
Third Rate Communication
With email, all we have are words. Intonation and emphasis are left to the interpretation of the recipient. So before you click on SEND, ask yourself: How critical is understanding and interpretation to this message? When is a third-rate form of communication appropriate?
For more on email effectiveness, check out 8 e-mail mistakes that make you look bad where author Kim Komando recommends…
Keep it short. If your e-mail is more than two paragraphs, maybe you should use the telephone.
This is certainly a rule that the CEO in the classic UAL commercial would applaud. How many paragraphs should dictate a face-to-face meeting?