Right now, there are so many channels we can use to communicate with others in our sphere of influence.
From more traditional methods such as meetings and emails, to social media and blogs, online videos and everything in between, there’s no shortage of ways to communicate.
However, we often default to the communication method that suits us best. Perhaps you prefer email or a particular social media platform, but we have so much choice and need to carefully identify the most effective way to get our message across to our audience.
Every communication decision starts with thinking about who is going to receive our message.
In my experience, we mostly plough into the communication process, knowing we’ve got something important to say without thinking about who we’re talking to and how they might prefer to receive our information.
Taking a few minutes to plan and prepare can mean the difference between your message getting across the first time, every time, and you wasting a lot of time answering queries, dealing with missed information and all the issues that can arise from that.
When selecting your method of communication, there are three key factors to consider:
The urgency of the information
If you need to reach someone quickly, you’re not going to send a snail mail or an email and hope they’ll access it instantly.
The sensitivity of the information
It’s very difficult to communicate emotive information or anything sensitive in nature by email or other forms of written communication alone. You are cutting out the vast majority of your communication tools, including body language, tone of voice and facial expressions, as well as your ability to also receive those signals from your audience.
That’s a sure-fire recipe for miscommunication, misunderstanding and all the timewasting that creates.
There are some situations where you just have to see the whites of the other person’s eyes. At the very least, organise a video call. In the worst-case scenario, a standard phone call will do. At least they can hear your voice.
The quantity of information
If you’ve got a long-winded message to deliver, you might need to break it up into smaller chunks or give people a quick summary with a link leading to more information. If it’s something quick and easy, then a text or a Facebook message might suffice.
Remember that channels are tools for you to use. A channel should complement but not overshadow the message.
Every communication interaction is part of a relationship. It’s never done in isolation, and the person we’re communicating with will form an impression of us that will contribute to our reputation. If it’s a negative experience, they’re likely to tell other people. If it’s a positive one, they might speak highly of us and come back for more business.
Don’t underestimate your choice of channel. Along with that, be wary of your tone and the way you approach people, particularly if you haven’t met them before.
Well-known speaker, Jane Anderson, recently shared a great story about this that’s stuck with me. Not long after being divorced, she reluctantly agreed to go on a date set up by friends.
She was surprised to see that the guy rocked up wearing a backpack. She asked him, “Oh, have you just come from the gym?”
He replied, “No, but I was thinking if it works out well between us… Well, you never know.”
She thought he was joking and said, tongue in cheek, “Oh right, so you’ve got a change of clothes and your toothbrush.” It turned out that he did! He wasn’t joking at all.
Not surprisingly, Jane sent this over-eager suitor on his way – but it did give her a colourful analogy for how some people communicate on platforms like LinkedIn.
Have you ever been approached by someone on a business networking site who cosies up to you like they’re your best friend? It’s like they’ve got their backpack on and are ready to stay the night! Trouble is, you’re a long way from ready. You don’t know them, have never heard from them before, and need to learn more if you’re to consider building a connection. In these situations, business relationships need to strengthen slowly so trust can be established. The same applies to any form of communication.
Choose your channel wisely, along with an engaging tone that hits the mark rather than giving that creepy feeling. Make wise choices and your communication will be more effective.