Thursday, May 26, 2016

The 8th Diffuser - Technology

In a previous post, I discussed how communication is very similar to a body of water. It can be clear or very muddied, and a lot of it has to do with elements that diffuse (make unclear) the message. I listed 7 in the original article. After a conversation with a new friend (Steve Beckles-Ebusua, The Speaker With the Orange Tie) at a conference this past weekend, I realized there should be 8.

The 8th Major Diffuser of Communication:


Why Technology? Have you ever misread the intent of an email? A text message? Missed an implication of a phone call? The list goes on and one. While everyone looks at Technology as a great simplifier, when not used properly, it is actually a great complicator. 

So here are some guidelines for technology:

1. Pick your medium carefully

Email, Text, Phone, Skype, Face-to-Face all have different implications. While Email may be the easiest because it is send and forget, it is also the easiest to confuse. Is the information or request you are sending simple to understand (and not just you THINK it's simple)? Is there any chance that the receiver can misinterpret? Is receiving a response important? If you answer yes to any of these, you should probably start working your way to more interactive forms of communication.

2. How are you communicating within the medium

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN TO YOU? In writing, ALL CAPS is practically yelling at people. Use it carefully (or not at all!). On a phone conversation, are you trying to be funny? Without the facial ques from you, can the person on the other side of the line tell? 

3. Are you ensuring full comprehension

As identified in the first Communication post, it is the job of the Communicator to ensure comprehension by asking the Receiver to reiterate back what they heard / understood. Too often this step is missed, especially when communication happens via technology. I can't count the number of misunderstandings that were recognized by the statement "But I sent you an email!" How that email is interpreted, what type of follow-through, and any follow-up were all dropped because the Communicator thought an email was good enough and never checked to ensure full comprehension. When you work through technology, at the simplier levels you miss out on the ques that can inform you of comprehension or confusion. In email and text you don't get the tone of voice, facial reactions, or body language.

A phone call adds the tone of voice, video conferencing the facial reactions, and face-to-face the full spectrum including body language. As many communication experts will tell you, in communication, it isn't generally what you say, but how you say it. If you take away the ques and slash it down to plain words, the level of comprehension can drop too. As the Initiator / Sender, it is your responsibility to confirm understanding. That may mean following up an email with a phone call or face-to-face just to ensure understanding (especially if there is a lot of information or chance for misunderstanding). 

Final Thought

One Final Thought, Technology is also a Diffuser because it is one of the greatest distractors today. We look at our phones constantly, even when we are talking to other people. That little device is more important to some people than the person that is in front of them! Social Media updates, Sales notifications, new YouTube videos can all distract a Receiver from the message you are trying to send. Ever been on a conference call where someone obviously was doing something else? Ta Dah! Technology (and multitasking) got them. 

So, when you are communicating, remember the original 7 Diffusers, but don't underestimate the 8th Diffuser: Technology. 

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