How to determine the best means of communication

How to determine the best means of communication

Most of us have been a part of an email thread that has gone back and forth for hours. At the end of it all, we realized that the entire conversation could have been solved with a two-minute phone call. The rise and ease of email, chat and texting, has made communicating with someone over the phone or meeting with them in person seem like things of the past.

Unlike faxing, however, which most of us can agree should be a thing of the past, the telephone and face-to-face meetings can be extremely effective sources of communication. With so many options in helping us get our messages across, it can be difficult to determine which communication tool to use.

The key objective to always keep in mind is that communication tools should be used to make our lives easier. With that said, taking the following tips into consideration the next time you need to send an important message to someone else in the office can help you in achieving this objective.

1. Consider your recipient

Many employees, especially senior level managers and directors, get a ton of email. In order to be efficient these people likely scan through and choose to look at and reply to only those emails that are most important.

When I began working I remember waiting for days to get a response to an email I had sent to someone higher up. It wasn’t until a co-worker who had been there for years told me that I would not get a response because this person received so many emails mine likely got lost in the abyss. It was then that I realized that email was not the best way to communicate with everyone. I never heard back from this individual, so I dropped by his office and after a quick five-minute meeting I received my answer.

If it has been a while and you haven’t heard back after sending an email, you may want to make a follow up phone call or drop into the person’s office. If either of the two alternative options work, continue using them as primary means of communication with that particular person.

2. Sometimes multiple avenues work best

Have you ever called someone about an issue and they had no idea what you were talking about? The person sounds confused the entire time you are explaining your reason for calling. But then you refer them to the email you had sent prior to the call and all of a sudden they understand exactly what you are talking about.

Having an email to refer to sometimes helps the person better understand your request while you walk through it over the phone or in person. Using multiple means of communication can be helpful in cases where a telephone or face-to-face conversation is required, but an additional communication tool such as email greatly increases the success of your meeting.

3. Analyze your goal

Analyzing the goal or purpose of your contact with an individual is one of the most important steps to take when determining which communication method to use. Do you need a simple answer, or are you trying to solve a problem that will require a lot of details?

For simple yes or no answers a quick conversation or telephone call is likely the best choice. For situations where a ton of details will be discussed, multiple means including email, telephone, an in-person meeting or a video call will probably be needed.

When in doubt about which communication method would work best, don’t be afraid to ask the recipient. They are often more than happy to tell you which tool they prefer to use for your particular situation.


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