Do you remember your mom telling you when you were a child, “It’s not what you say; it’s how you say it?” Oh, you may have said all the right words after you got in trouble for breaking the lamp. Maybe you even apologized, but your mom may have completely disregarded your words as soon as she saw your eyes roll to the top of your head as you were pounding your foot on the floor. At that moment, your words meant absolutely nothing to her – no matter what they were.
While words are powerful, our form of communication is equally important. We may have an amazing message that looks great on paper, but if it’s not presented in the right way, the intentions of our message may be missed by others. On the flip side, we may have a message that looks terrible on paper, but if our presentation venue is immaculate and appropriate, it may take root in others immediately. For example, Adolf Hitler is known as one of the world’s greatest communicators. Was it simply his words that caused people to follow him, or was it how he presented those words? Most scholars would say that Hitler’s delivery of words was superb. He spent many hours preparing and practicing his speeches, and he knew how to get his message across, no matter how morbid or disdainful the words. He knew how to use words as weapons, and he gained power through communication. In the same way, Ronald Reagan used his former career as a sports announcer and actor to gain support as President by using his communication skills. Reagan was personable, and when he delivered speeches, he talked as if he were talking one-on-one with someone, rather than to a crowd. In both instances, the communicators were successful in getting their messages across because they knew how to deliver the words.
Workplace communication is not much different. If you have a message you want to get across to others, it’s not simply the words that matter, it’s how you use the words, as well. As with any other area in life, we can choose to use different forms of communication. Whether communicating by e-mail, phone, or in person, the delivery source does matter. And it should be different for different situations. The type of message, the audience and time frames are some factors that should be considered when determining how a message is delivered. So…how will you deliver your message? The following are different types of communication used in the workplace, including a few simple tips on when and how to use them.
Use e-mail when:
- You want a “record” of the conversation – E-mail not only provides proof that communication was sent, but if you are e-mailing multiple people and receive multiple responses, it is easy to “track” the entire conversation.
- Communicating with more than one person – It’s often difficult to gather multiple people for phone calls and personal meetings. E-mailing is a quick and easy way to get a message across to more than one person.
- You do not need an immediate response – Although e-mail is instantaneous, and we often have access to it 24/7, not everyone has time to promptly respond, and some people get bogged down with e-mails. Always assume you will not receive an immediate response.
Consider the following when using e-mail:
- The recipient cannot read your tone – If you are trying to communicate any type of emotion in your e-mail, it may not come across the way you intended. This often leads to miscommunication.
- Be mindful of the amount of information you provide – When sending an e-mail, consider what your recipient already knows. Too much or too little information can be frustrating.
- Read and respond to the entire e-mail – Many people tend to read only the first few sentences of an e-mail or “skim” through the e-mail. When you don’t read the entire message, you may be missing important information, and your response may not be adequate.
Use the phone when:
- You want personal interaction – When you want to provide more than general information, and you need a direct “one-on-one” conversation, this is the perfect way to communicate. Your voice tones give emotions to words, making it easier to get your point across. In addition, you can hear tones in the other person’s voice, allowing you to identify his or her emotions.
- You want an immediate response.
- You want to build a relationship – While a phone conversation is not the most personal form of communication, it is a two-way conversation that allows each person to listen and respond, which can successfully build a relationship.
Consider this when using the phone:
- Your attitude is reflected in your tone. If you have a smile on your face, the receiver is going to “hear” it. On the flip side, the listener can “hear” any negative attitudes that may be reflected in your tone.
Use face-to-face communication when:
- You want to be completely sure your point is understood. When communicating with someone in person, gestures help you get your point across. You can also immediately read the listener’s response to your message by examining the listener’s body language.
- You want to not only build, but cultivate a relationship. Communicating in person shows the listener you care by setting aside time to actually meet with him or her. You are devoting time to that person’s concerns and ideas. Multiple meetings continue to cultivate the relationship.
Consider this when using face-to-face communication:
- If you are the listener, LISTEN. Listening is a part of communication, and can convey a positive or negative message, just like words. Eliminate distractions and focus on the person. If you are on your computer while someone is talking to you, you are not actively listening. Make eye contact, and let the listener know you are actually hearing what he or she says.
Communication involves much more than words. It involves many aspects, including facial expressions, body language, tone, attitude and delivery method. Words have the power to bring about change, and the most effective communicators have changed the world. There is truly an art to communicating, and many of us don’t take the time to learn it. Make your words count. Be intentional about your delivery method and presentation. Put time and effort into what you have to say. Most importantly, remember: It’s not what you say; it’s how you say it.
Written by: Angela Nicholson