I heard of a salesperson this week who was complaining because a VP of a large organization was not responding to his text messages to get together. (Please note that the VP had never met this salesperson. ) Another colleague was telling me about a young manager who never phoned anyone because she was “afraid to phone”. The feeling is that it is so much easier to just send a text or e-mail, especially for a difficult message. Then you hear about people breaking up through Facebook or text messages. Who wants to have a messy conversation? Just write a quick message, press send and you’re done! No tears or angry words.
I have to be conscious that I am a Boomer and was raised in an era where we didn’t even have e-mail until I was well into my career. I am therefore not a “Digital Native” and have somewhat adapted to technology as it has occurred. However, I do think there are some common human reactions to communications. A basic rule should be “How would I feel if this message came via text versus in person?” Also, does this topic need discussion? Is it controversial? Am I trying to establish a relationship?
Unless you are just downloading information or facts to someone else, the absence of emotional context in an online conversation can be a problem. In face to face conversations, we can judge by body language and tone of voice what the other person might be feeling about the situation and they do the same for us. Research shows that only 10% of what we communicate is through the words.
Here is a great article that expands further on this topic. http://www.6seconds.org/2011/02/11/tools-for-workplace-communication/