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How To Stop Modern Media Reducing Effective Face To Face Communication At Work

Are you being overwhelmed by emails, text messages, twitters and a mass of "modern" communication techniques? It's not surprising. The fact is, face to face communication is still the best way to get things done at work. But the modern techniques diminish, not enhance, effective communication. These ideas will reduce this danger.

So called "modern" communication techniques often devalue the spoken word. Yet the spoken word – face to face communication – is still the quickest and most fruitful way to exchange views, sort out disagreements and create common ground for future action.

What's "Face To Face" Communication?

Face to face communication occurs whenever two or more people talk at work. Formal structures aren't necessary. A casual chat, a 30 second phone call, a few words exchanged in a car park: all these can create effective face to face communication. You don't need keyboards, cell phones or screens of any kind.

What About The Message?

Email, texting, blogging and twittering and the like may be inexpensive, fashionable and fun. But are they effective? The purpose of communication at work is to clarify meaning, improve understanding, share information and get things done: improve on- job performance. If that doesn't occur, the communication's incomplete.

The Medium Is The Message: Or Is It?

Back in 1964, Marshall McLuhan's book "Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man" contained a catchphrase that was to become part of everyday language, "The medium is the message". It seems history may have proven him partially correct at least.

Consequences of Current Practice

Sooner or later we have to talk to each other at work. We'll need to confirm or clarify what we write or text in face to face discussion. By overusing non verbal media we forget that successful face to face communication requires skill. And that's the problem.

The Reality

Regardless of emails and all the other one way technology, the workplace is an absolute hive of face to face communication. Managers who are skilled at handling this hive will find the workplace a more honeyed place than those who don't.

Some Suggestions For Effective Face To Face Communication

• Stop emailing: start talking. Use email to initiate or confirm the outcomes of discussion. It is not an alternative.

• Resolve never, ever again to say "I sent him - or her - a text message about it". Text messages, with their trendy vocabulary and sense of urgency, don't absolve their senders of responsibility for "getting the message across".

• Before you reach for your cell phone ask yourself, "Do I need to speak to this person right now?" or "Should I interrupt?" or "Can I wait until later to talk about this?" Cell phones have led lots of people to believe that they should be able to interrupt anyone, anytime, for any reason that suits them. We lived without this indulgent convenience for thousands of years. Another 10 minutes won't cause the world to end.

• Edit your own emails ruthlessly before they're sent. These days every manager gets mountains of emails. Some are almost unintelligible because they're written in haste. Enlightened self interest demands that yours are succinct, pertinent, relevant, interesting and easy to understand. Imagine the joy you'd feel if all the emails you received met these criteria…!

• When you next think "I'll just send an email," dismiss the thought. It might get the issue off your desk momentarily but what else will it achieve? Think instead about what you're trying to achieve, what action you want to occur, even how the intended recipient is likely to react, Think about these sorts of things first. Then decide on the media you should use to best achieve your goals.


Marshall McLuhan may have had a point. As managers, we must ask ourselves "Are we going to allow today's so called communications media to dictate how we communicate with each other? Or are we going to use them professionally to our advantage to improve workplace communications and business results?"

About Author Leon Noone :

If you've enjoyed this article, you'll probably also enjoy my FREE, 20 page Special Report, "49 Practical Tips For Better People Management In Small-Medium Business". If you'd like a copy go to <a href="" target="_blank"></a> and it's yours to download FREE.&nbsp; I work with&nbsp; managers in small-medium business to help improve on job staff performance without using training.

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Article Added on Sunday, September 5, 2010
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