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Communication breakdown

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Is communication getting better or worse?

Many would argue it is better today than 20 years ago, thanks to the proliferation of mobile phones, social networking websites like Facebook and LinkedIn, and the popularity of, first, email and, later, text messages and instant messaging. Today you can always be connected, unless you are in some remote region without Wi-Fi or cell coverage.

Young people entering the workforce today are increasingly beyond email. They haven’t used it growing up. Signing into an account, typing out a subject line and sending a message that might not be received by the intended recipient for hours? It isn’t immediate enough for them. Today’s young people want and expect immediate gratification. Teenagers literally send and receive hundreds of text messages in an average day, and they can crank them out and respond to them almost instantaneously.

Still, I found myself lamenting the advent of non-voice digital communication during a breakout session at last week’s Insurance and Financial Communicators Association annual conference in Chicago. David Grossman, founder and CEO of The Grossman Group, touched on this subject during his session, “Successful strategies to deliver authentic communications that engage employees and build reputation.”

Grossman said he thought businesses shouldn’t be moving so far away from face-to-face and voice-to-voice communication and that we need to strive to bring it back.

I couldn’t agree more. Not only does face-to-face or voice-to-voice lead to immediate answers or solutions to questions or problems; it also leads to a better understanding of the issues involved in dealing with any particular problem. You not only find the solution, but you have a better understanding of the reasoning behind the solution.

See also: Are you a time-efficient communicator?

When you need insight, background or an answer to a question, instead of sending an IM, text or email to your colleague, pick up the phone and call that person so you can have a true, immediate two-way dialogue. Or, if possible, walk down the hallway and have a live conversation about it. Either way, you get immediate feedback and, typically, a better understanding of the issue at hand. And you can move forward immediately, without having to wait for a response from someone who may or may not put the same priority on the issue as you do.

Have you ever spent several minutes crafting a perfectly worded email when you could have communicated the same concerns in mere seconds with a phone call or an in-person conversation?

Much has been said and written about how the proliferation of texting, in particular, is damaging the quality of communication. Judith Kallos, who writes about email etiquette, was quoted in a New York Times article on this subject, complaining about how the looser, briefer and less grammatical the writing, the less deep the thoughts and emotions behind it. She says, “We’re going down a road where we’re losing our skills to communicate with the written word.”

Perhaps we’re going down that same road with the spoken word. As young people who are far more comfortable texting people than calling them continue to enter the workforce, people are bound to get worse at communicating with others, both inside and outside of their organizations.

For more from Brian Anderson, see:

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