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Individual Communication in the Workplace

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As tech evolves and continues to shape our lives, it also shapes how we communicate. Today, individual communication is drastically different than it was before the proliferation of tech. While communication affects every facet of our world, we should do a deeper dive into how it comes into play within the workplace. If communication is changing, should how we communicate with our colleagues change too?

In today’s world people talk less on the phone and meet less in person. With a decrease in face to face communication, there has been an increase in written communication, including texting and emailing. Websites perfectly show this trend: as soon as we open up a new tab or website, we are immediately met with chat boxes or search bars. We chat, we text, and we email… a lot. Globally, 205.6 billion emails are sent daily. According to Bluesource, 74% of online adults stated that they preferred email as their primary communication tool.

So, what does this mean for the workplace? How do you communicate different with colleagues, supervisors, or even clients and customers? Knowing that statistically most people prefer written communication, we should follow some best practices to ensure it’s effective. We also need to know when written isn’t the way to go, and it’s time to try something else.

  1. When writing, craft your messages based on the lens of the receiver and give people what they want. When someone sees an extremely long text or email, they immediately disengage. A good rule of thumb is that if you don’t like reading long messages, then the receiver probably doesn’t either. Be concise, while remaining engaging and informative. Think your message needs to be longer? It may be a good idea to pick up the phone at that point. Even if they don’t answer, 500 words on a voicemail is much quicker than 500 words in an email or text.
  2. Communicate in threes: When you send emails, use three bullets. When you are speaking or presenting in a meeting, only cover three points or less. At the end of every meeting or call, recap three takeaways. Speaking in threes is a widely accepted communication strategy, that was a speech giving technique utilized by Abraham Lincoln in his Gettysburg Address. Speaking in threes, whether vocal or written, is a digestible framework used to drive home the point.
  3. Determine when to pivot from written to live (in person, via video, or over the phone): If you cannot follow the framework of threes: pivot live. If you have to conduct a sensitive or difficult conversation that could elicit a negative place of emotion: pivot live. Contrarily, if you have the opportunity to express positive emotion, such as gratitude, excitement, or pride: move live. Determining when to move to a live setting of communication is extremely important as it displays a high level of emotional intelligence of intentionality.

The most important thing to keep in mind regarding communication is to remain flexible based on the situation. Yes, written communication is preferred, but it can also be easily ignored. If you aren’t receiving responses or communication is lagging, pick up the phone and give that person a call. Have you texted your coworker who works down the hall every day, but haven’t seen them in a week? Maybe you can schedule a video call or say hi from a distance. Following communication best practices is important, but don’t lose out on building relationships in the process.