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.
FACE TO FACE
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.