JP Morgan recently announced they are getting rid of voicemail. The cost is outweighing its value with more people using text and email. There are many more media options to communicate that voicemail wasn’t as effective, or used, as it’s too slow. By the time I leave a voicemail and you check it — several hours later — we’ve likely texted back and forth.
Do you dream of the day we also get rid of email? I know we all say it would be great and applaud those companies who ban email for a day, but secretly could you live without it?
In today’s globally minded, always-connected society, we need different communication tools. And not all tools are used correctly. The problem is often not the tool, it is the user who selected the wrong tool. Would you grab a hammer to put a screw into the wall? That’s why we have screwdrivers. The key to effective communication is knowing when to use each medium.
If I go back 30 years to my Communication 101 college course, the key thing I remember is that there is a: 1) Sender; 2) Message; and, 3) Receiver.
It is the Sender’s responsibility to get the intended message correctly conveyed to the receiver NOT the other way around. Just because you “send an email” doesn’t mean you have done your job if the person interprets it differently than planned or if it never reaches your audience.
I live in the heart of the Silicon Valley and it seems like every few days a new way to send that message is created. When communication is bi-directional, there are essentially two ways: 1) Vocal; or, 2) Non Vocal.
This involves speaking to someone whether over the phone, face-to-face, or through web-conferencing tools such as Facetime, WebEx or Skype. Emotions are more easily conveyed. How many times has your spouse said one thing but you knew she, or he, meant the opposite based on their facial reactions? Let me help you out:
Spouse 1: What’s Wrong?
Spouse 2: Nothing
Sometimes “Nothing” actually means nothing but sometimes “Nothing” means something. You can only tell it means something by looking that person in the face or listening to their voice.
This involves conveying the message without the spoken voice and should not be confused with non-verbal (which is not using words: spoken or written). There are many more options in this arena. In the early days, it was the letter which would take days or weeks to reach the intended recipient. Now we have email, text, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and the list goes on. New communication mediums are entering the market faster and faster and allowing us to move one thought, or message, to a recipient more quickly. Faster doesn’t always mean better. And sending doesn’t always mean receiving.
Too often we try to use non-vocal when vocal is more appropriate. Here are a few questions to ask yourself and make sure you are using the right tool versus hiding behind the wrong tool.
1. Is emotion involved?
2. Is discussion needed?
3. Is there a potential for conflict?
4. Are you avoiding conflict?
If the answer is “Yes” to any of these questions, I suggest a ‘vocal’ option or one that lets you actually talk to your recipient.
Several years ago I was managing two people (let’s call them Diana and Marty) who were located in an office 2,000 miles away from me but who sat next to each. One day I got an email from Diana saying she hadn’t received a response from Marty (her peer) to an email sent two days earlier and needed the feedback before moving forward on a project. I quickly called Diana and this was our conversation:
Me: What seems to be the problem?
Diana: I emailed Marty several days ago and she hasn’t responded.
Me: Has she been in the office for the past few days?
Me: Is she in the office now?
Me: Peak your head around the wall and talk to her.
I have two children and have gone through child-delivery classes with my wife. And while those breathing classes were really intended for her, I found them helpful during this conversation as I wanted to say, “LEAN OVER THE %$^&ING WALL AND ASK HER THE QUESTION SINCE SHE IS 4 FEET AWAY AND I AM 2,000 MILES AWAY.” Note: This is a grammatically appropriate use of capitalization to denote YELLING!
You can probably imagine the two didn’t have the strongest bond so handling issues through email seemed to be the better alternative. It wasn’t and rarely is.
If the next time you get ready to deliver a message via a non-vocal manner and you momentarily pause, ask yourself those four questions and reconsider how to send your message so the receiver get’s it.