The ways we communicate have changed drastically over the past 5 years. There are now more ways to do so than we often know what to do with. However, it is still important to be mindful of the medium we choose. While we may all have our own preferences, it’s important to be sure that we don’t let these influence us in the decision against the right medium for the situation.
Just because it is convenient, doesn’t mean that it is efficient.
Technology tends to evolve in the way of convenience. Years ago, the most reliable way to get in touch with someone was via a landline phone call. Anymore though, you can make a call, text, write an email, video chat, and access social media from one single device that fits in your pocket! Some of us are not great speakers, and prefer the written way of communication to verbal and some don’t like how impersonal text and email can be and would prefer a face to face or verbal conversation. It is important to not allow ourselves to be held back by our own discomforts.
The medium you select can make a drastic difference in how effectively you communicate to the other person, as well as the impact it has on that particular situation and relationship. Below we will go over many types of communication mediums and when they would be most appropriate.
Text-based or “written” communications are a very popular medium. Emails, text messages, social media sites and other platforms often use SMS platforms for a major part of their functions. However, there are many limitations to how text communication can work and that means it might not be an appropriate choice in many situations.
- We have no choice but to get to the point. It cuts out small talk.
- The messages stay on record. Sure there is space for misinterpretations, but you can always search the original message and that can’t be questioned in a miscommunication.
- Writing things down tends to make us be more precise in how we speak, we think of what we need to say and how we wish to convey it.
- You can keep it organized. This isn’t so easy in text messages, but in emails you have the space to organize things in to different paragraphs or sections to make it easier to read.
- Text has no tone. You can’t really differentiate how the person is meaning something via text outside of emoticons, which are not professional at all.
- Text is very easy to miscommunicate. Of course, speech is easy to misunderstand, one misspelling can ruin the entire message.
- Text and emails are very impersonal. You don’t get that face to face interaction.
- There really is no way to open things up for discussion with a group. Sometimes this will have an advantage, other times it is extremely difficult to make work because all you have is back and forth between 2 people.
Text mediums are great for when you need your message to be quick and precise and on the record, however it is not a good choice for when emotion is necessary to convey a message.
Making a regular phone call or voice call, is becoming less and less popular. Text is really taking the monopoly on communication since it is so quick and to the point. However, voice calls still have their place in some situations and for some people.
- You don’t need to focus all of your attention on a voice call. You can multitask. With text you can’t really do much as you need to be looking at what it is you are typing. If you have a blue tooth headset you can take a voice call pretty much anywhere no matter what you’re doing. In fact, lots of people will be multitasking during conference calls. Very convenient.
- You can convey your tone with just your voice. You don’t need body language and you don’t need to try and figure out how to convey things via text without the inappropriate use of emoticons.
- You can have multiple people on the same call no matter where they are at. Conference calls makes it easier for everyone to be heard at once.
- People will often interrupt each other, even by accident. There are no real pauses in speech and you don’t really know when one person is done or the next person is about to begin so it happens that people wind up speaking over each other.
- Where’s the record? You can record phone calls but it isn’t as easy to find a specific point of reference in voice files as it is in text.
- Many things factor in to how well people can be heard over the phone. Accents, connection problems, background noise, all those things can make it hard to hear or understand what people are saying during a voice call.
Voice calls can be great for getting multiple people from different places in the same conversation, but they are generally inefficient and text is often much easier.
Video calls or Video chats as some call it, are a great substitute for face to face meetings. You don’t need to be anywhere close geographically as Skype and Hangouts (among many others) are able to bridge the gap and allow you to communicate face to face with somebody from wherever you are at.
- Body language is much easier to express when you can see the person and this is great for first impressions or important meetings when you need to see the person but it is not physically possible to do so in person.
- There are often other features involved with video chats. Skype allows you to share files and even share screens if you need to demonstrate something or send something over to discuss with the person on the other end.
- Video chats use up a lot of bandwidth. This could have a negative impact on those around you, depending on your network.
- Sometimes there’s a bad connection that just ends it all… without warning. This will greatly depend on your network but things like weather can also have an effect here.
- Having conference video calls is somewhat difficult, especially if there are a great many people involved. Not because of getting everyone on, but connections and network issues, plus servers can sometimes be a problem as well. Google hangouts is working on a solution to this problem.
Video chats or video calls are a great substitute for in person meetings. However, they are limited in their greatness and sometimes trying to use it for a larger group will only wind up frustrating people instead of sharing the information effectively.
Meeting in person has been the go to medium of communication for decades now. It’s great, provided you can have everyone physically present. However, as a virtual assistant, or any virtual professional, this may not easily be to achieve.
- Easy to express meaning with body language and facial expressions as well as tone of voice. Everyone is there, everyone can see how you are physically explaining as well as your verbal explanations.
- No connection issues. You won’t have to worry about losing someone due to a bad connection or dropping a call completely, since you’re all right there in the same room.
- Conversations can flow effectively. It is much easier to tell when it is time to speak when you can see everyone around you.
- People are spread out all over the world. It is nearly impossible to have everyone in the same place at the same time for a meeting.
- Keeping record is subjective to everyone’s interpretations as you will have to rely on note taking.
- Setting up the time that will work for everyone. It isn’t always easy for people to block out an hour or so of their time to be somewhere for a meeting. Sometimes, it’s impossible to have a time that will work for everyone.
Having in person meetings are preferred for maintaining relationships, but they are inefficient and difficult to arrange.
Choosing the right one
No two situations will be exactly the same in what they require. It is best to master effective communications by knowing how to use each medium to their full potential whenever possible. Keep in mind when each one is best and use your intuition to tell you which one to use.
About Out of the Office Virtual Assistance:
Since 2006, Out of the Office has offered ideas and ways to increase your productivity, decrease your workload, and work more efficiently. We nurture a successful business relationship, while continuing to grow as your business partner. We are focused on streamlining your administration, social media planning and execution, content writing and offering creative solutions for your business success.
Image credit: Gellinger | CC0 Public Domain