Text Messages Are Very Likely Holding You Back
You ever get the feeling you’re juggling too many messaging channels ? Face-to-face, cellphone, SMS, email, social, Slack, LinkedIn, Google Docs, Microsoft Teams and more.
There’s a growing body of research confirming that there are just too many ways to communicate and a strong bias for textual messaging that results in confusion, double-handling and lower levels of trust.
The trend in communications is much less voice and much higher textual messaging and what feels like productive and effective messaging may just be exactly the opposite.
All forms of text communications are generally convenient for the sender and often the recipient too. The ever-connected world we live in provides a lot more convenience than was offered even five years ago, but with that ease-of-access there have been a number of changes in the way we go about our personal and business lives.
The convenience afforded by instant messengers and email make it easy to respond to an issue quickly removing the personal interaction we had through a phone call or stopping by someone’s desk.
It’s often argued that the heavy reliance on email has increased efficiency. That purported efficiency has also built up a quite few challenges. One of the biggest challenges we have when we get away from face-to-face and voice communication is how messages become open to interpretation. Tone can be very difficult to interpret when you can’t hear the inflection in someone’s voice.
How many times have you received a text message or email and you read it and thought ‘Why is this person so stroppy?’ when in fact, that’s just the way YOU read it. Interpretation depends on the mood of the person who is crafting their message, but even more so on the mood of the person reading the message.
Have you thought about which channel is more impactful in terms of getting your message heard or read and understood?
With our super busy lives text messaging seems a very helpful convenience. When you finally get some time to deal with your various Inboxes and it’s 11pm, you clearly aren’t going to call or SMS your response. Most likely you’ll send emails or reply on the social or work channel it came in on.
So, you feel like you’ve dealt with the inbound comms. Your Inboxes are under control and you retire to bed feeling good that you’ve actioned the important items on your plate.
Issue is however that your textual replies have gone into someone else’s Inboxes and guess what? They too are dealing with message overload and your carefully worded reply is quite possibly lost in all the noise they’re dealing with.
Most people just don’t take time to consider the strategic importance of their messages. Just way too busy — messaging.
Think about this and realize that a decent percentage of the messages you send do have a high strategic importance. Sure lots aren’t as important in a strategic sense and it isn’t such a problem if those messages aren’t read and understood.
Most people dealing with daily messaging means applying a similar focus to all messages. The big question however is whether this will get you the kind of results you want for your strategically important messages.
The most impactful form of communication is still voice, either digital or in person. Voice is the optimum way to ensure your audience is engaged, what you’re communicating is understood and the best way to ensure you understand what you’ve heard.
Voice is also how relationships develop. How trust is enhanced and friendships persist.
Dr. Albert Mehrabian is Professor Emeritus of Psychology, UCLA. His important 1967 study, “Inference of Attitudes from Nonverbal Communication in Two Channels,” named three components of effective communications:
~body language accounts for 55 percent,
~voice tone for 38 percent and
~spoken words for 7 percent.
On the telephone, voice tone gives dimension and emotion to words, increasing the effectiveness of the communication. Certain body language, such as smiling and standing while talking, may come through in the conversation. In other words, the vast majority of effective communication is not carried by words alone.
Texting and emails are simply a collection of words open to interpretation by the receiver, without the benefit of voice tone or body language. This is in fact really important — appreciating how to best ensure your communications are effective and impressive.
I asked one of the members of our SEVENMile community about this. Glendon Evarts is a communications expert and Australian country manager for VIA. He lives and breathes communication solutions every day and his job is to ensure his customers get maximum leverage from their communications.
In Glendon’s words, “Your voice is the most powerful, natural way you communicate. Now it just needs a new way to express itself. I say ‘new way’ because more than 90% of business people rely too much on textual forms of communication. We know that people are overwhelmed with text-based messages from many channels and while you can be fairly sure text messages will be delivered, you can also be sure that in general well over 50% of these messages will either go unread, be misunderstood and quite possibly won’t be actioned.”
Glendon added, “ the psychology of dealing with a text-based message compared to voice is that a great many people will scan your text quickly and move on to the next message. This greatly impacts the chances that your message has achieved what you intended.”
I think Glendon’s right about this.
Next time you sit down to write someone, take a minute and consider how important and strategic their relationship with you is. If it’s bland operational issues then go ahead and type. If it’s a strategically important relationship and issue being discussed then consider changing your approach — send a message that asks for a time to talk.
If you get that chance to talk, have your approach ready and use the power of your voice and intonation to convey your sincerity, your capabilities and ensure your message is understood.
About the author:
Greg Twemlow is a Sydney-based Social Enterprise Founder | Startup Mentor | CEO |Writer | Speaker | Podcaster