Choose Your Method Wisely

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This week we’re going to work on something called Choosing Your Communication Method Wisely. The reason I chose this is because so many people have asked me questions like, “Did I do this wrong? Did I communicate with somebody in the wrong way? Is that what caused a problem?” What they’re talking about is the method in which they communicated. “Should I not have emailed? Should I have texted instead? Or shown up in person?” Good questions! How do you know?

I’m going to teach you a quick rule that’s going to show you how, depending on the method you choose, matching with the level of importance of your conversation, you’re going to find out how to get the perfect fit every time.

Let’s first start with the different methods of Communication. What’s the most common way we communicate? Nowadays, it’s texting, emailing, and i-chatting or im-ing. If you think about it, the amount of information you’re sending is words only in those mediums. There’s also emoticons and some other various gifs and things that we’ve started to add to our texts, but I’m not counting those quite yet.

The second level of communication involves picking up the phone to either speak to someone or leaving a voice mail. That gives you words as well as tone and imparts a lot more information. Of course, the most information that you can receive is when you are on video or in person. That’s because you get the whole package – body language, tone and words.

I’m going to give you a few quick examples of what I’m talking about when you’re thinking about matching these communication methods to the level of importance of a conversation. A low level of importance would be something like checking in with someone using a text to let them know you’ll be there in five minutes, exactly like you said you would be. Or asking someone to pick up a gallon of milk on the way home. Or sending over an address or contact information via text. That’s a low level of importance that would match a low level of communication. Words only. No problem.

Now we’ll move on to what I was talking about earlier, which is a phone conversation where you have words and tone. You would match that with a medium level of importance in communication. That would be something like a last-minute change in plans, or maybe you got delayed in traffic and are running late. You want to let someone know and make sure you really got to them and are not depending on them checking their texts or emails. You want to make sure you talk to them in a situation like that.

When do you need to go to the highest level of communication including body language when you meet in person? That would be for something that you know might disappoint someone. As a physician, what that could mean is me delivering bad news to a patient. Or something like breaking off a romantic relationship. Conversations such as these carry the highest levels of importance and they need to be done in person.

The other question people ask me is, what if I choose the wrong method? Then what? If you choose the wrong one, you don’t need to panic. You just have to address the issue as soon as you realize there’s a conflict. Let’s say you send a quick text and you get a response back that surprises you, where the other person was taken aback by what you just wrote to them. Then it’s time to go up a level. You want to go to the medium level of importance in your method and you want to pick up the phone and talk to them. Or, if you were talking on the phone and things aren’t going quite right, it’s time for you to go to making an appointment in person. Alternatively, if that’s not possible, you could make an appointment with them to connect on Skype, FaceTime, Google Hangout or some sort of video communication. You can see each other when you talk and when you do, you both are able to gather more information and really understand each other better.

I hope these tips were helpful. Here’s your Awareness Prescription!

Your Awareness Prescription

  1. What is your preferred method of communication?
  2. How much information is the receiver of your communication getting (words, tone, body language)?
  3. How will understanding method = importance level change how you communicate moving forward?

Promoting effective communication,

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