Choosing How to Communicate

We have many ways to communicate: email, phone, instant messaging, and in-person. How do you choose which to use when? Get-It-Done Guy has a handy primer.

Stever Robbins,
Episode #265

Writing is Permanent

Not only does the medium affect emotional connection, but the medium also affects the record of your interaction. Communication via status update, public bulletin board, or email stays around virtually forever, and can even get indexed by search engines. Communication via instant message can still stick around on one or more computers depending on the IM client being used.

With phone and in-person conversations, there is actual privacy legislation that may restrict what can be recorded or, if recorded, what can be used as legal evidence.

If you’re upset as you’re writing an email, IM, or status update, do not hit send! Wait. Calm down. Take some time. Then if you still want to deliver the message, pick up the phone and do it where it won’t come back to haunt you later.

We saw an example of this recently when sorority president Rebecca Martinson sent her sorority a scathing email using many naughty words. It went viral. She had to resign her sorority position. What happens in Vegas may stay in Vegas, but what happened in email does not stay in email.

(The happy ending is that Rebecca was offered a job as on online chat host with an adult website due to her “girl-next-door looks” and “unique use of vocabulary.” Plus, actor Michael Shannon read the unbelievably offensive letter in a dramatic reading. Guaranteed to have you glued to your seat.)

Here’s how this affects your options:

Instant messages. These are an interruption, but good for quick conversation. They stick around. Use them for discussing quick, real-time information that someone isn’t going to need to refer to later.

Email is great for documents. It’s permanent, easy to forward, leaves a paper trail, and can be saved for reference. Email is best for long explanations and reference material. Don’t use it for emotional discussions.

Phone is much faster than typing, as long as you can refrain from social chit-chat. When an email conversation has more than 3 messages, save time by calling. If you’re discussing something emotional, call, so you can hear each other’s voice tone.

In person meetings are best for highly emotional topics like performance evaluations, hiring, firing, breaking up, proposing marriage, giving feedback, and complimenting a new outfit, no matter how you actually feel about Lycra and paisley.

So the bottom line, Cindy, is that you need to choose the medium that seems right for your communication. If someone has a preferred way they like to interact, use that. But be willing to override that choice as necessary. Choose multi-sensory when you need to manage emotion and empathy. And choose text when you’re giving information that may need to be referenced later.

(That’s why my book, Get-it-Done Guy’s 9 Steps to Work Less and Do More is available in audiobook form, for emotional impact, and in written form, for reference. Buy both.)

This is Stever Robbins. You can find this episode’s transcript with links to videos and my book at getitdone.quickanddirtytips.com

I help people live extraordinary lives. For a free presentation, visit http://www.SteverRobbins.com/lel.

Work Less, Do More, and have a Great Life!

Email image from Shutterstock


About the Author

Stever Robbins

Stever Robbins is a graduate of W. Edward Deming’s Total Quality Management training program and a Certified Master Trainer Elite of NLP. He holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a BS in Computer Sciences from MIT. 

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