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These days, most communication takes place online – either through the emails that fly back and forth during the business day, or through texts, messaging apps, and team management apps like Slack and Basecamp. Email communication is instantaneous and instantly archived, retrievable at the touch of a button.
Does the switch to digital correspondence come at a price? In this post, we’ll look at some of the costs and benefits of email communication, and some occasions when it might be best to take the conversation offline.
Email is an excellent medium for transmitting and retaining accurate information – but pixels often hide emotional affect. Email missives can seem cold or distant, and difficulty in perceiving tone can even lead to miscommunication. When you’re planning to discuss sensitive subject matter, or speaking to a new acquaintance as opposed to someone you have a longstanding relationship with, in-person conversations can prevent misunderstandings and reduce conflict. In-person communication can also be used to demonstrate responsive, personal interest that might defuse tension – for example, when you’re speaking with a client who has made a complaint.
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When you’re caught up in an argument, it can be easy to let your frustrations out via the less-intimate medium of email – and what seems emphatic and frustrated to you may come off as furious and exasperated to a sensitive reader. If you need to resolve a conflict, consider sitting down for an in-person meeting. Even if it feels uncomfortable, it’ll be easier for you to speak diplomatically and to hear and respond to any issues raised by your interlocutor. You can follow up with an email that can serve as a record of the conversation and any resulting consensus, not to mention a way to highlight your professional commitment to maintaining a productive relationship.
For everyone who hates committing thoughts to writing, there’s someone who prefers to think on paper. You may want to account for different communication styles when designing a team communication strategy. Email and team-building apps make discussion transparent and organized, but they might hinder contributions from people whose ideas “spark” brightest when they’re engaged in in-person dialogue. To ensure that everyone has the chance to shine, be sure to schedule time to talk with employees in person – either one-on-one or during a group brainstorming session.
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When you’re facing a difficult problem, reaching out for advice and support is only natural. If you’re trying to work out a complicated or challenging problem, it pays to sit down in person with your colleagues. Chances are, you’ll all feel more comfortable about sharing preliminary ideas and thoughts during a conversation as opposed to a series of business communications. You may also feel more inclined to experiment and speculate, since you’re “thinking out loud” rather than committing words to paper.
Team management and communication apps can be great for complicated projects – but they may limit opportunities for bonding between coworkers. Organizational features that streamline channels of communication – for example, shared documents and projects that are only open to small groups of employees – can calcify team interactions, especially when new members are added to the cohort or when your company tries to build connections across departments or skillsets. If you want to ensure close and supportive working relationships between your employees, make sure to balance online communication and teamwork with opportunities to connect offline.
Communication Across Disciplines
Technical and other highly specialized skillsets tend to have their own “jargon” – and it’s crucial for professionals working in these fields to develop the ability to communicate in-depth with listeners who may not share their in-group vocabulary. In-person interactions give audiences the chance to ask questions, allowing speakers to “course correct” with explanations. They also help specialized workers to understand the “big picture” value of their singular contribution, and may inspire them to create collaborative and interdisciplinary projects.
Digital communication is a powerful tool for commerce and collaboration, but it should be seen as a supplement to existing communication channels, not an absolute replacement. Remember the value of in-person communication to professional relationships, and look for ways to emphasize it in your workplace.
Are you interested in learning more about in-person and digital correspondence and other forms of business communication? At Square 1 Group, we make it our business to create multilayered technology and marketing solutions for our clients, tailoring our approach to your team. Contact us for a consultation today!