My Favorite Methods for Communicating and How to Use Them: Part 1
As we were evolving, one of the main abilities that set us apart from other species was our ability to communicate complex ideas. Communication is what has allowed us to build groups, organizations, and nations. We need to communicate to grow and develop, and for that reason, communication is one of our most important tools at work.
The art of communication, if not properly leveraged, can create roadblocks within the work process. There are so many ways we can communicate nowadays that it is easy to become overwhelmed by the options. Our success relies on choosing the best method of communication and how each option can best benefit our professional aim.
I’ve constructed a small guide on how I utilize the different tools and best practices at work.
Tools for Communication and Their Best Uses
Email is an essential form of communication for everyone, which leads to a love/hate relationship with the medium. It is highly convenient because with just a single message composed in less than a minute, we can reach anybody with an email address in any location in the world; this very convenience, however, is what makes it a plague in our inboxes.
Quick: Just add the address, subject, and message, and the email is ready to go.
Universal: Almost everybody has an email address, so everyone is within reach no matter the company or country he or she is in.
Can be sent at any time: An email can be sent before or after normal work hours, and it will be there waiting for the receiver whenever the person is ready to read it.
No space for nuance or complexity: The tone and sentiment of a message can easily get lost in cyberspace. For example, a short, direct email can be misinterpreted as a curt message. Since the sender of the email is not present for the recipient’s reading of the message, content can easily be misunderstood. If the main idea is difficult to explain, imagine how much more difficult it is to break down when the parties are not face-to-face.
Saturation: We all receive so many emails daily that one email can easily get lost in our inbox. While the recipient will have received the email, it’s also highly possible that the message goes unread or glossed over.
Given the limitations of the medium, I make it a point only to send emails that contain straightforward information. The most common types of emails I send are:
Informative: My favorite type of email is one that makes a statement that is not open to different interpretations and has to be communicated quickly and effectively. Some examples are:
A. “I will meet you at five at the bank.”
B. “Our financial statements are ready for review. We are looking forward to seeing you next Monday at 9 AM at our offices.”
Emails with attachments: Email is a very convenient method for sending files to counterparts.
Digital and Mobile Chat
Digital and mobile chatting applications are very useful to send quick messages to others. The specific services may vary by region and preferences. Some of the ones I have tried are Google Hangouts, Whatsapp, iMessage, and Facebook Messenger.
Convenient: You can swiftly send a message to any contact that has the same application.
Casual: No advance preparation is necessary, and the messages can be any length. The beauty of chatting is that the protocol for sending messages is very flexible, though a certain decorum should still always be maintained.
Less intrusive: A chat is less intrusive than a phone call but requests a more immediate answer than an email does. It can be a good in-between channel when you need an answer but don’t want to be pushy.
Hard to retrieve: Prior messages may be hard to find because there is no formal method for organizing and tagging information, in many cases.
The message can get lost: Depending on the application and the person, a message may get misplaced due to the overwhelming amount of messages received daily—similar to email.
Not universal: I have not found an app that everybody I know uses. The closest one I have found is Whatsapp, but if the receiver is not in the habit of using Whatsapp on a regular basis, there may be a delay in communication.
Too simple: It is sometimes too time-consuming or difficult to express a larger, more complex explanation.
Quick, casual and informative messages. Some examples are:
A. “I am on my way.”
B. “I will call you back after my meeting.”
Gentle reminders: I find chat to be personal yet less intrusive when I need to get an answer.
To a supplier: “Hi Andy. How are you? I was wondering when the furniture will arrive at our warehouse?”
Quick interactions that require an answer: I chat via these digital and mobile applications with my team often. Sometimes I am not available for a walk-in question because I am either in a meeting or working on something. However, everybody knows they can reach me through these apps if they need a quick answer via chat. I will respond as soon as I am free so that no time is wasted.
In Part 2 of this article, I explore three other forms of communication, their advantages and disadvantages, and their best uses.