We email, but do we actually communicate?

Prior to the availability of electronic communication tools, there was a time when we used to communicate by meeting face-to-face or by writing them a letter. However, today workers are much more inclined to send emails to someone sitting right next to them, rather than actually embracing the art of conversation.

Don?t get me wrong, email has many benefits. People will argue that the service has helped ensure decisions and activities are easily traceable ? if required. But in all honesty, I actually believe that communicating solely through email can actually be detrimental to the success of a business.

Dr. Albert Mehrabian, author of Silent Messages, conducted several studies on nonverbal communication. He found that 7% of any message is conveyed through words, 38% through certain vocal elements and 55% through nonverbal elements (facial expressions, gestures, posture, etc.). So if we apply these findings to email, we are wasting approximately 93% of communication?s potential.  

Knowing this, maybe it?s time to review our communication habits within the workplace?

Minimising errors

Effective communication between staff is critical to the success of any business. Removing vocal and non-verbal elements from a conversation means the chance of something being misinterpreted significantly increases. This can escalate quickly and possibly lead to friction between staff.

In a world that has become dependent on immediacy, people can often miss out words in a message simply because the brain works faster than the fingers. For example, ?We do believe that the customer is wrong? means something totally different to the intended reading of ?We do not believe the customer is wrong?.

Now imagine if this error was made in a face-to-face meeting. Emotions would immediately be recognisable from the person making the error, so the statement could be rectified quickly to avoid any confusion future problems. Besides, a slip up in person may even go unnoticed!

So in terms of communicating, it?s important that when typing out your next email you first ask yourself: can I communicate directly with this person?

Traditional communication

While face-to-face meetings are undoubtedly the best form of communication they can sometimes be impractical, so video conferencing services, which are very affordable, could be considered. However, if the situation doesn?t warrant the use of video, how about a good old fashioned phone call? Make sure it?s conducted in a quiet environment though to ensure a good quality call.

If all else fails, then it is probably time to consider email. But it?s important to make sure you check through the message thoroughly before sending or forwarding. I?d advise you to rewrite any messages you are forwarding to avoid any unnoticed errors.

And finally, ?what about the issue of traceability? I hear you say. To counter any issues, why not take notes after every interaction and then type them up in a quick email following the meeting?

If we started communicating with each other more effectively, business productively should in theory be ultimately improved.