You know sometimes I get the feeling that we might not all be fully aware of just how dependent we are on our modern means of communication. As wonderful as being connected instantly is, we should still, at times, reflect and return to more ancient and even more recent means of communicating.
Do you remember that film with Kevin Costner, the Postman? Do you remember the joy of receiving a letter from someone far away or a postcard? How many of us have recently written a real letter with pen and paper? I confess that the other week, while I was hand writing a letter, I reflected at how the muscles in my hand, after such a long stint from writing, were actually aching from the physical movement! I was shocked to think how little I hand write these days and. In fact, I do all my correspondence and documents on the computer.
Progressively over the last twenty years, we have whirlwinded into a world of fast and furious instant communication. We rely on fax machines, mobile phones, the Internet, e-mail, sms, messengers, chat rooms, computer telecommunications with video, and more — an endless list of communicative options that we have at our disposal.
Obviously, for business, services, industry and production, all instant and efficient means of communication are, on one hand, so beneficial for business. On the other hand, however, they can prove to be exceedingly overwhelming. There are many executives and employees that are daily bombarded with excessive amounts of e-mail communication. Some of the burning questions that clients often comment to me with are the following:
- How necessary are all of these e-mails?
- Why don’t people think before they write?
- Would it not be better in some cases just to pick up the phone and tell me personally?
- How could we as a company avoid unnecessary e-mails?
These are really serious questions that companies, work places, and the rest of us should now be asking. In one particular case, a company actually created its own e-mail etiquette leaflet with some rules and tips regarding e-mail communications. This leaflet not only became a gossip topic of employees, but also made them really think about how they were individually and collectively dealing with heavy e-mail traffic.
Now let’s consider the collateral effect of our modern means of communication — the emotional impact. As individuals, we should all consider how efficiently and effectively we are communicating with our peers, family, work colleagues, superiors, acquaintances and strangers.
In each case, it might be better to stop and ask if an sms is appropriate or if an e-mail would be better. In some situations, it would be even nicer to pick up the phone and have a short conversation. Sometimes you can really save time and energy with a one minute phone call. Furthermore, having a direct conversation with the other party forges a better working/family relationship.
Language plays such an important role when using these modern means of communication not only at home, but also at work, especially when dealing with internationally mixed teams. Next time, before you send that e-mail with limited words, direct orders and short sentences, stop and ask yourself, “How will the recipient understand this?” and more importantly “How will he/she react to this?”
I have many German clients that receive e-mails from English colleagues and often don’t understand why the English are so direct and matter of fact. On a personal note, I also have a very sensitive mama who, belonging to a different generation, cannot understand why some people only send sms and e-mail to her and never pick up the phone to offer a few words. It is not that she minds e-mail or sms. In fact she is now an expert “Skyper.” However, she feels that every now and then it would be so wonderful to actually hear a voice.
Here are my tips regarding means of communication today:
- Be aware which means of communication you are in fact using and if this is appropriate to the circumstances.
- Make that means of communication work to your advantage:
- Do you need a written record? Then write it down.
- Do you need a quick yes? Then call or sms.
- Do you want to show feeling and emotion? Then speak to the other person.
- Be sensitive to the recipient – think about whether or not they will appreciate the means that you are using or if there is another way to be faster, more effective and kinder.
- Be aware of how you formulate your language if you are using a written form of communication. If you are writing to non-native English, are you being clear but still polite in your message? How will the receiving party interpret it? Could there be double meanings in your words?
- Bear in mind that on the whole, even though Internet communication is one of our greatest recent developments, we all still appreciate hearing someone’s voice in person and even receiving hand written letters. On a family/friend level and on a business level – especially for networking – don’t forget it is great to talk and be heard.