Communication today – three ways we communicate

The world is smaller today than it ever has been.  A phone call, video chat, email, or text message can put you in contact with someone across the globe in seconds.   With our global reach being as far as it is, are we effective?  What criteria would we use to define our effectiveness?

Imagine you are working on a project and you need a late report from your co-worker Mark (he’s a nice guy who may be a bit overwhelmed) or you would miss a deadline.  You could email Mark, leave him a voicemail, or (if possible) talk to Mark face to face.  What does each way of communicating imply to Mark (or your teammates for that matter)?


When emailing it is difficult to convey emotion or intent (and impossible to use sarcasm, don’t even try….) so it is a challenge to get your point across effectively.  Care must be taken to choose words correctly so that your intended message is received the way you intended it.  When emailing Mark about his late report you want to convey the importance of getting the report without unintentionally shutting Mark down completely.  It’s important to remember that once you hit send on an email you can’t be sure you can take it back – make sure that what you say is what you mean to say.

Emails can be ignored, and recipients know that – sometimes an email says to a person “get to this when you can.”  If time is of the essence you may want to give Mark a call.  If he doesn’t answer you can always leave him a voicemail.


I hope that I am not the only person that goes blank when they hear the beep of a voicemail.  When I make a phone call I want to talk to the person that I am calling, getting an answering machine throws me off – I normally hang up the first time and then try again…  But what does leaving a voicemail say to our friend Mark?  Maybe he screened the call.  Maybe he won’t check his messages.  Maybe he lost his phone.  Leaving a voicemail is like fishing, you cast out your bait and hope for a nibble.  Most likely Mark will get the message, but when he gets the message is beyond our control.  A voicemail is better in many ways than an email at conveying how important the message is – a person can tell by the “tone” of someone’s voice how they feel about the message they are conveying.

Even a voicemail can be ignored, and maybe the message is important enough to have face to face.  If you are working in the same office you can walk over to mark and ask him about the report.


You may have heard that over 80% of our communication is nonverbal/body language.  While the 55/38/7 (55% of communication is body language, 38% is tone of voice and only 7% is what is being said) “rule” may be a point of contention to some (Oestriech, 1999) we inarguably communicate a lot of information non-verbally.  Talking to our friend Mark about the missing report is probably the most effective way to communicate our needs.  It is easy to ignore an email or a voicemail, but it is difficult to ignore a person in front of you.  It is also much easier to convey your meaning (if you are itching to be sarcastic now would be the time) to your audience in a face to face communication.  It is hard to hear a frown, and an unhappy emoji does not convey the same level of angst you may intend.

A face to face meeting may be the most effective way to get the message to a person, but it also can require the most effort.  If that person is halfway across the world it won’t be cheap and it won’t be fast.  Hopefully in our example Mark is just down the hall and you can swing by his desk with little delay.



Oestreich, H. (1999). Let’s dump the 55%, 38%, 7% Rule. Transitions, 7, 11-14.

3 thoughts on “Communication today – three ways we communicate

  1. Dear Luke,

    I enjoyed reading your Blog post this week. I thought you brought up some good points when talking about how geographic location can have a large impact on which communication media are used. When you are in different countries it is hard to arrange live face-to-face communication, bur it may be possible to use video conferencing. While this may not capture all the nuance of tone and body language, it does go much further than a phone call or voicemail (Kahai, 2010; Vanderkam, 2015).



    Kahai , S. (2010, May 6). Is video conferencing a good substitute for face-to-face meetings? Retrieved from

    Vanderkam, L. (2015, September 30). The science of when you need in-person communication. Fast Company [Web site]. Retrieved from

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Luke,

    I enjoyed your perspective and analysis of effective communication. I am that person who hates to check email. This could easily be me. I have three email account and several responsibilities. I only check emails about 2-3 time a day and I often miss important ones, some with deadlines. Unless an individual’s states that I should be expecting an email, it may be missed, deleting, or unread. I am also not fond of voicemails so, I try to accept every call coming in. This way I am able to handle what is needed immediately. I prefer face-to-face, this for me is most effective. However, I would agree with you whole heartedly. “we inarguably communicate a lot of information non-verbally.”
    I have distinct facial expressions that are often read wrong, or take the wrong way. I may do this depending on how someone states information or if a question is posed and there may be a logic answer or explanation. It is an old habit learned during childhood. I mentioned this because, what I am thinking and what my face may be doing could give an individual the wrong impression. I feel that as individuals we should build some level of a relationship. This would aid us in getting to know a person’s personality which would be useful in most forms of communication.

    Elanna Dancer


  3. Reading your post rings loud and clear. People do have preferred styles in the way they receive information, requests, news, and education. Your content focuses on email, voice and face-to-face communications which are all a bit obsolete. Now there are texts, tweets, and video. The end game is the same…. all forms of communication compete for our attention.
    If the email message had a soundtrack with it or the voice mail was more theatrical, or the face-to-face messenger walked into the person’s cubicle leaning inches from the receiver’s face the outcome may have been different. Sean shares how to make communications pop in is short video (Sean, 2015). Improving the message delivery is the cornerstone of cited media, which can certainly be applied to emails, voice messages, and face-to-face conversations. Of course, it will take extra time and the return on investment may be minimal, but it is worth a try.
    In conclusion, it is a stretch to say make all your communications unforgettable but settling for memorable is good enough for routine exchanges.

    Sean, K. (Producer). (2015). How to get people’s attention: 5 Ways to make your communication pop! [Video file]. Available from


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