Communicating effectively in an age of speed

Do you get frustrated that your emails often don’t get a response? Or the response is too slow? Or you get the wrong response?

Sending an email is often quicker than the time it takes to catch someone on the phone or to organise and conduct a face-to-face meeting with them. Even more so when it involves multiple people! So if high speed of communication equals high productivity, then email is easily a winner.

But email lacks richness of context and can be easily misunderstood, especially if the subject is complex, highly emotive or easily open to different interpretations. By contrast a richer communication medium such as a face-to-face meeting allows potential misunderstandings to be quickly identified and corrected. A simpler medium such as email (or text, SMS or social media) has little or no context or ‘richness’, can be more easily misinterpreted and take considerable time before that misunderstanding has been realised and corrected.

While email may be quick at the ‘front end’ of the communication process, it can often cost even more time at the ‘back end’ of the process to either follow up a message that hasn’t been responded to or to correct a misunderstanding and any unintended outcomes.

So, before defaulting to email to communicate a message, consider how easy is it for your message is too hard to understand or is misunderstood, what are the potential consequences, and how quickly will it take to retrieve the situation if your email is not acted upon or a misunderstanding occurs.

Think of the tortoise and the hare!