It wasn’t all that long ago when you asked a co-worker a question or made after work plans, you actually spoke with them either face-to-face or over the phone. Now, emails and instant messages have taken hold as a primary means of communicating.
Electronic communication, in all its various forms, has been a great boon, both professionally and personally and is best suited when giving directions, making simple agreements or sharing objective feedback.
You would be hard pressed in today’s workplace to find someone who doesn’t at least know of someone being burned by electronic communication. Hitting reply all on a message with sensitive or embarrassing information, comical mistyped messages, or forgetting to add someone to an email chain are all common and, if you’re lucky, lead to nothing more than embarrassment.
What you’re missing in an email
The written word can be powerful, but when it comes to effective communication and relationship building in the workplace it has some drawbacks. One of the greatest disadvantages of writing vs. verbal or face-to-face communication is your message is interpreted through the eyes of the reader instead of through your voice and body. No matter how eloquently you may paint a picture in writing, those words will always pass through the reader’s filter. Your intended tone, pitch or body language can be misconstrued.
Verbal and body clues are incredibly important for effective communication. Body language, tone, pitch, and facial expressions all play a part in shaping our understanding of language’s meaning. Research indicates that non-verbal communication can make up as much as 55-90% of all communication. Think about it, by only using the written word you can lose half of your intended message.
So if you are trying to make a point especially one which is subjective and or conveys emotion, it is critical to do it verbally so the receiver can hear and or see the meaning behind your words.
5 tips to improve your verbal communication
- If you need to have a conversation that carries emotion do it verbally (over the phone or preferably face-to face).
- Make it a point to have one face-to face conversation daily and observe what you notice about others non-verbal patterns.
- Ask a confidant, coach or mentor to interpret your non-verbal language and see if it matches your intended meaning.
- Before you hit send, save the draft and re-read it. Would this message be better delivered and understood in a conversation?
- Practice, practice and more practice…this is the best way to improve your communication and its effectiveness.
These tips may seem counter-intuitive in today’s ultra hectic multitasking world as you can get a lot more done if you just send an email. Heck who has time for it? But think about it, how many less conversations could you have if your intended message was received correctly the first time? Too many follow-up conversations, issues and conflicts arise from poor communication that could have been easily negated had the original message been relayed verbally with its full meaning and intention.
Image courtesy: Valentin.Ottone