More and more we are relying on digital communication for both business and personal reasons. We drop an email, we send a text, and we assume that the other party will be able to interpret our meaning, imagine our tonality, see our body language and thus figure out what we truly mean by what we’ve sent.
Based on our past experience, and being in a hurry, we may jump to conclusions (often the wrong ones) based on what we believe a person is saying, writing etc. This issue is accentuated exponentially through digital means.
We have seen many people having to do mea culpa’s as a result of what I like to call “twit tweeting.” When most of us are made aware of these posts we collectively say “what were they thinking.” And as Hamlet said “there’s the rub.” Because with email, text, tweet, etc. we don’t truly have to engage our brains that much, because it is instantaneous. It appeals to our 3-year-old inner child that is saying “I need it and I need it now.” I know most of us have had occasion when, after we hit the send button, we went “Oh (pick your expletive of choice)” and wish we could recall it the errant missive.
Or once sent, we get a digital communication back, that makes us sit there and ponder how it could have been perceived so wrongly. And what do we do when we get concerned about this potential misinterpretation of the message? We compound the issue by sending another, which says perhaps “let me explain.” And then the emails (texts, tweets) start going back and forth, until both parties have woven themselves into a Gordian knot of anger, despair, or just pick your emotion of choice.
In business it can mean a deal going sour, a business relationship ending, or perhaps a minor molehill issue escalating into Mount Everest. And similar outcomes in personal relationships.
For humans, our words are only a part of the way we communicate and only a portion of how we listen. We glean a lot from the tonality of the delivery, the body language, etc. But also when you are having a dialogue, do you really think it can be effective through digital means? Perhaps I am just of the old school, that still believes that although digital communication is a wonderful tool, we have come to rely on it too much. Talking, listening face-to-face, or by phone, can better ensure that you don’t end up on the wrong side of misinterpretation. When having a true dialogue the back and forth parrying is important is determining effective resolutions. Digital discourse is like fencing with a mirror.
Back in 1964, Marshal McLuhan famously stated “The medium is the message” meaning that the form of a medium of communication embeds itself into the message, which significantly influences how the message is perceived (from Wikipedia). This insight is even more relevant today than it was in 1964.
So when you are communicating think about the medium and whether it best serves the intent of the message. Digital is 1 dimensional; phone is 2 dimensional; face-to-face is 3 dimensional.
And when you think of what means to use, consider the potential ramifications of misinterpretation. The greater the desire to ensure that the message is properly received, the more important it is to be 3D.