Pop Quiz: Which method of communication most effectively conveys every aspect of a message?
B. Phone Call
D. Text Message
The answer, of course, is A. Face-to-face communication is the most effective method for delivering and responding to every element of a message: words, context, body language, emotional content, etc. As you move down the line from face-to-face to phone call to email to text message, the complexity of the message is filtered because the amount of information given and received diminishes.
This dynamic is pretty well-known; even though many people do not have the willingness or understanding to apply the proper medium to the right message. However, this communication lesson actually serves as the best explanation for the value of team bonding. Here is a quick overview
Text Message = Working on a project with someone you've never met.
Text messages are great at conveying quick information, but are ineffective at conveying tone and meaning. Similarly, it is difficult to work efficiently with someone you've never met because all you know about them is right-now information. Therefore, you have to take everything at face value and tasks can take longer because everything has to spelled out and clearly explained. Assumptions are not always a bad thing, but they are almost always a bad tactic when you have no prior knowledge of the other person's intentions, actions or behaviors.
Email = Working with a new team member.
Email is the preferred "quick" and "traceable" method of communication in the workplace. It is efficient to a point. Everyone has had that moment five-minutes into drafting an email when you hit delete and then just call the person because you realize it is faster. Email is clear to a point also because tone is not always easy (or front of mind) to explain. When a new team member arrives (especially if the team is already robust) many people will simply not take the time to explain tone or context to the "newbies" and just skip past that step. Therefore, the complexity of the messages are left to assumption by the new team member. This creates miscommunication, confusion and, in many cases, no clear person to blame.
Phone Call = Working on a team with someone you know professionally, but have never learned anything about personally.
Phone calls are many times just as useful as face-to-face in terms of fully conveying the message at hand. However, they are not quite as good. One of the major differences is what choosing the medium conveys. If you have the option of meeting face-to-face or over-the-phone with me and you choose phone, it does place a lower value on the interaction; except in all the cases where the context is just a quick chat. This same dynamic works with office relationships. If you don't take the time to get to know me or learn more about me, I don't feel a sense of investment in the relationship from you (and vice-versa). This can create a working relationship that is not as powerful and robust as possible.
Face-to-Face = Working on a team with someone you know both professionally and personally.
The most effective medium for delivering and receiving the complexity of a message is face-to-face. I can read your body language. I can see your tone. I can see, not just hear, how you are responding to me. It is efficient, effective and clear (as long as the words are clear). This is the perfect metaphor and support for the value of team bonding. When two people take time to learn more than just surface level knowledge about each other, they are better equipped to read intention, context, purpose, understanding, etc. Only a small percentage of the messages we send every day are conveyed in our words. The vast majority of the message exists in our body language, tone, assumed intent, etc. When teams invest time in bonding and understanding how each other ticks, these larger messages are more clearly delivered and more appropriately received.
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