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Communications Conundrum

Communication Conundrum

blog Nov 26, 2016

When I was young, if I wanted to talk to my best friend Randy without going over to his house or meeting him somewhere, I had only one choice - call him on the telephone. Of course, I could only call him if he had previously given me his phone number or if I knew the last name used for setting up the telephone account. You see, his mother remarried and she did not have the same last name as Randy. So if I did not know his mom or stepdad's last name, I had no chance of getting his phone number from the operator (Information). Today, if I want to connect with someone, I have numerous choices of how to connect including email, phone, video, texting, online chat, social media, and even discussion forums. And I don't even need to know the other person's last name let alone their real name.

The point is that in today's interconnected world, communications are free to nearly every corner of the globe and cheap in most of the rest. Yet we still suck at communication. In every single organization I work with, there are communications issues of some sort. In most, there are breakdowns in process and service delivery that are most directly attributable to poor communications. The one common element I see most is the desire of the communicator to use as few words as possible to pass along information, relying then on the recipient to figure it out or divine everything needed from the cryptically short message. I call it communication laziness. And if the communications are about something important such as the interpersonal relationship, the curt messages can do nothing but make things worse.

What I observe also is that when the conversation starts with simple, short messages and is a simple matter, it's usually of no consequence. But when the true depth and gravity of the issue begins to be revealed as something significantly larger, the communications do not mature commensurate with the importance of the issue. The people involved continue to try to get by with the least number of words and least interactive level of connections that they can. This is the conundrum. If spending a few more minutes typing out a clear, concise message isn't sufficient, why not just pick up the phone or make a video call? The answer? Time.

No matter how easy, simple, or cheap communications are, we are still so afraid of wasting time by making the connection that we will do just about anything to avoid it, including risking relationships and customer service ratings. And what is silly if not downright stupid is how much time we spend trying to get the issue resolved without the quality voice or video connection. At a certain point, there is a cost benefit to just making the connection. We all know that a texted or emailed message just does not have the sentiment, emphasis, empathy, or any other emotion conveyed that a verbal communication does. So why are we so communication stingy or lazy? Does it really take that much more time to start and complete a conversation? Those few seconds of "Hi, how have you been?" "How are the kids?" and "It's been great chatting with you, bye."

When I culminated and solidified the ten Value Aspects of a business for the purpose of having a logical breakdown of the business activities and functions, I put Communications and Collaboration at the top, not because it alphabetically comes first (that's just coincidence) but because it must be at the top of every organization's list. It must be the most important function and activity of an organization. Our ability to effectively communicate will directly determine our success.

Maybe there are just some habits we need to change. As of this weekend, I resolve to make video calls before attempting audio calls. I also resolve to make calls for simple things that do not need a communications trail. And even if there is a trail required, I'll make the call first, knowing I can spend a lot less time typing because I've had the personal conversation with all the necessary sentiment, emphasis, empathy, and emotion required.

I ask you to also consider resolving to use the communications abilities available to us today to communicate better, not briefer.


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