[tweetmeme]Sometimes it seems that brand new ways to communicate are being invented every day. Uh, uh. We’re mistaking new channels of communication – like the Internet, Skype, smart phones – for the actual messages we send to make ourselves understood. Despite the revolution that is the Internet, nothing has changed from how we sent messages in ancient times.
Think about it: there are only three types of messages: words, pictures and actions. Those 150,000+ IPhone apps all fall into one or a combination of words, pictures and actions.
It’s essential to think carefully about how we send a message so that the recipient is absolutely clear what we mean – the deadline is 5 p.m. this afternoon – and the underlying message in how it is delivered. As my mother used to say, “Let’s watch our TOV.” (Tone of voice.)
The sharp retort: “The deadline is 5 p.m. this afternoon!!” conveys much more than a simple “The deadline is 5 p.m. this afternoon.” Have I done something wrong when my manager raises his voice and then stalks out of the office? Of course, that is sending a very clear message. By the same token, we get the message when we feel a feel a friendly pat on the back. Nonverbal communication in business can convey so much more than words alone.
Why does this matter? We’ve all noticed it. Electronic communications is slowly squeezing the civility out of discourse. We dash off emails and text messages with little regard for how the recipient will receive the message. Face-to-face communication where a smile can convey more than a thousand words is missing when increasingly work is done virtually, and a laptop becomes the business traveler’s office.
I particularly worry about younger professionals who live by texting and communicating virtually on Facebook and other social networks. The emotional context is missing. Or worse, is misunderstood.
The back pat, the belly laugh, and the handshake – these convey so much more than words. Are we forgetting how to use them?