We have regularly shared the reminder that the most important choice people make each day is “deciding what to work on.”
Further, Bill Conway always said that “Fifty-percent of continuous improvement is working on the right things.”
In addition, in a past post we shared the importance of a strategic communication plan and how it is a necessary component of successful improvement efforts.
But just like it’s important to “work on the right thins,” it is also important to choose the “right method” of communication.
Over the past five-years-or-so we have observed that many people have a tendency to over-rely on email as a means of communication. It would seem like a good choice, as it is quick and easy to implement.
A Risky Choice?
But as suggested in the image above, with each step we are removed from our audience the risk of miscommunication escalates!
Consider that when interacting face-to-face we are able to interpret other people’s non-verbal communication (i.e., facial expression, eye contact) and voice tone. Numerous studies have found that these factors contribute most to accuracy in interpretation and understanding.
When we move to communicating by telephone we lose the visual cues. Fortunately we can still make judgements based on voice tone and pose clarifying questions to ensure greater levels of accuracy.
But if we opt to communicate via email, we lose not only the visual contact, but also the ability to interpret voice tone, to assess how our audience reacts to what we’ve shared, to clarify our message when necessary, or to ask clarifying questions.
It is also very easy to “assume” the tone associated with the written word, but passing judgment in the wrong way results in misunderstanding. Plus the problem can be further exacerbated if the sender has used improper punctuation or words!
For example, consider the difference in actual meaning between the following two sentences:
- Let’s eat, granny!
- Let’s eat granny!
The absence of a comma results in a significant difference in meaning!
Finally, due to the increased frequency of uncertainty associated with interpreting the written word, many “simple” emails require a response that seeks clarification. This, in turn, requires a second email from the original sender, which sometimes brings about another request for clarity. At this point, one might wonder if it would have actually been quicker to communicate by phone in the first place!
As a rule of thumb, lean toward face-to-face or telephone/remote platform communication if the subject matter is complex, of dire importance, or sensitive in nature.
If you do, you’ll likely save a lot of time and avoid many potentially costly misunderstandings.