When it comes to communicating with your co-workers or boss, the choices you make can either detriment or enhance your relationships. It’s always very important to understand the context, urgency, and purpose of your message so that you can then choose the best mode of communication given these variables.
You’ve heard stories about people breaking up with someone over text. That’s cold. Let’s talk about which modes of communication are best for which types of messages. With so many ways to communicate, it can be confusing.
A good place to start is to think about the purpose of your message: Is it to inform, or does it require a response? Is the message formal or casual? Is it for one person, your team, or the whole company? Next, think about your relationship to the audience. If you’re communicating with an individual, is that person a peer, a manager, or someone you lead? Perhaps it’s a client, vendor, or new business prospect. Your relationship with that person has a lot to do with how your message will be received and what format to choose.
For example, a text to a colleague might make sense because they are familiar with you. A text to the owner of the company might not. Follow the other person’s lead and keep it professional. Consider your company’s culture and processes. If there’s an intra-company chat platform or collaboration tool, then learn how to use it. Aside from that, think about how the other person prefers to receive information. If a client likes to make decisions in real-time, then take that into account. Your choices can actually enhance relationships. It can diminish them too. So be mindful and be flexible.
Is your message time-sensitive? Most people don’t consider email urgent. So if you need to get in touch soon, phone, text, or chat are generally the best methods. Be efficient in your communications. If you need a short response, that is not time-sensitive, email’s a good choice, but if you find yourself writing a long email or foresee lots of unnecessary back and forth, then a short phone call might be the best solution.
Think carefully about the sensitivity of your message. If it is highly sensitive, emotional, or difficult then face-to-face, video chat, or a phone call may be best. Remember that without the nuance of nonverbal cues, emails and texts can easily be misinterpreted. And of course, you should never put anything in writing that you wouldn’t want to see on the news. Last but not least, don’t forget about good old-fashioned snail mail. It’s still an excellent medium for personal handwritten communications like invitations or thank you cards. In communication, it’s all about context. The best way to convey your message to the recipient depends on the message, the recipient, and your ability to be thoughtful about both.