I just devoted three posts to the importance and content of good “Company Communication.” Now I would like to talk about the mode of that communication. Communication, especially effective communication, most often involves dialog or conversation rather than a monologue. What difference does the mode make?
I’ve participated in many interview panels for management-level candidates where one of the questions was, “How do you prefer to communicate with your employees?” 100% of the time the answer includes the phrase, “face-to-face” or “in-person” or “one-on-one.” No one has yet preferred a phone call or text message. Why? Again, what difference does the mode make?
Even the word “Send” seems to imply distance. I send a package to someone or I send a letter. These days we send emails and text messages. Written communication has an important place in our lives. For example, Suzi found all the love letters her father had sent to her mother before they were married. She displays them in a 3-foot high apothecary jar. It’s quite beautiful to look at especially when you consider all the love that’s memorialized in those words. She treasures them especially now that both her parents have passed away.
Written communication is important when we want to memorialize a conversation for future reference or for legal or sentimental reasons. Writing also gives us the chance to consider our words before delivering them. We can be more clear and organized in our communication when we write it. Written responses also allow us to pause, if need be, before responding to someone. Sometimes that pause can save a relationship.
But writing is less personal. What we email, text, or post on social media happens mostly inside our own heads without the benefit of the other person’s presence to help us form our communication appropriately. That can be impersonal at best and dangerous at worst.
When I hear the word conversation, I think of hearing someone else’s voice and talking. That leads me to the next consideration for the mode of conversation. Dial. I used to have a bunch of people’s phone numbers memorized. Not any more. Now I just press the speed dial button on my office phone or say, “Hey Google, Call Suzi on mobile” and within seconds I’m talking to her.
That’s the key for this mode. We get to talk to the other person. I get to hear the inflections in their voice, their pauses. Emotion comes through. Their level of interest or understanding comes through much more clearly in a voice conversation. The conversation is also much more immediate. It’s in the moment which is important when what you want or need is urgent. Dial when you don’t have time to wait for the other person to formulate their response or just get around to checking their email or texts. That makes the words, “You’ve reached my voicemail …” very aggravating. Voicemail ranks lower on my list of preferred modes of communication than snail mail, and that’s pretty low. Are they away from their phone or just screening?
My side of the family lives in Minnesota and I live in California. That’s another huge value to dial technology. It shrinks the world so you can talk to people you can’t be with. Zoom, Skype, and other platforms have made that even more personal with video calling. My Dad and brothers and I get together periodically on a “Thomason Boys” Zoom call. I treasure the chance to see their faces and hear what’s going on in their lives.
I said walk, but it could be drive or even fly. Face-to-face, in-person communication takes effort but it’s worth it. The difference in value between “dial” and “send” is huge. But the difference in value of in-person conversation over the others is like a race between tennis shoes and a motorbike. There is no comparison. The clarity of the visual, the audio quality, and the 3-D effect, you don’t even need 3-D glasses!
Okay, I’m being silly, but you get what I mean. There is nothing like an in-person conversation. Just ask a teacher. Our daughter-in-law who is a 5th-grade teacher was able to join Suzi and me for dinner while our son was at an event the other evening. We talked about the difference she feels between online learning and in-person education. Just the ability to move around in each other’s space, to physically go to a student who may need a little help is exponentially more valuable than any online platform.
So, I say send when it’s necessary. Dial when you can. But, by all means, whenever it’s an option, walk.