One of the more interesting discussions I participated in lately related to the use of email as an effective communication tool. No one can question the importance of email in today’s business environment. According to the Financial Times, “email volume hit 182 billion emails in 2013 according to research from Radicati Group. The average business person sees between 100 and 120 emails on a daily basis.” We all use emails daily to communicate. Does it help us communicate effectively?
What is Effective Communication?
Let’s look at a definition of effective communication from BusinessDictionary.com. “A two way information sharing process which involves one party sending a message that is easily understood by the receiving party.” A closer look at the components of this definition is where the discussion gets interesting.
Let’s evaluate the component “two way information sharing process.” If we are the sender of the email we draft our email, get the wording just right, include all the key points we want to make and finally hit the send button. We have communicated! But, what if the email did not arrive at the recipients’ inbox? Maybe the recipient accidentally deleted the email before reading it. In addition, effective communication is supposed to include “a message that is easily understood by the receiving party.” What if they did not understand the message or maybe they interpreted it differently than we wanted them to? How do we know that the email was understood?
If the two parties were having a face-to-face communication interaction verbal and non-verbal feedback would provide additional confirmation that the message was received. The party communicating the initial message can ask the receiver of the message to restate it to ensure it was received and understood. The receiving party can practice effective listening techniques to ensure they receive the message correctly. The parties are using more of their senses to validate the effectiveness of the communication.
Helpful or A Hindrance?
The inability to effectively communicate can be a significant risk in your personal and professional life. The key is to evaluate the message you are trying to communicate and select the best delivery approach. Informing colleagues that you will be out of the office next Tuesday will probably be effectively communicated via email (assuming the email arrives) but providing an employee feedback on their performance via email is probably not such a good idea. Remember, sometimes the best approach to effective communication is the oldest approach. Go and talk to them face-to-face.