Communication. It is a complicated matter, yet it is the foundation for success. No matter what position you are in, no matter what industry – effective communication is a must.

Communication is a tricky word as it encompasses so many variables. From the actual words used, to the frequency, tone, and technology we use to transfer those messages and all of the pieces in between.  No wonder we suffer so often from miscommunication. 

I could spend hours teaching the detailed skills of effective communication. There is so much to cover from the written and interpersonal, to the generational communication standards that can cause variables from how team members expect to be communicated with, to what they expect to have communicated from leadership.

It’s important that as we shift to a virtual world of cell phones and online meetings that we place a priority on understanding communication richness. This is something that older generations tend to understand inherently, while younger generations grew up disconnected from the power of face to face communication. Once we really understand communication richness we can then adapt and adjust to our situations in the best way possible.

Although there are many avenues for communication, there are some key advantages and disadvantages when choosing a vehicle for sharing information. 

Face to Face: We have the best chance of communicating effectively when we share non-verbal feedback including facial expressions and tone along with our words. When we choose to share information face to face we are also able to receive instant feedback from our audience or team.

*Note: Non-verbal communication paired with the tone is 80% off the communication received.

Phone: When we choose a verbal only method of communication we lose our non-verbal communication and we can lose quality in our tone, leaving us with less than 50% chance of having effective communication. 

Email: Written communication can be tricky.  We lose instant feedback as well as the ability to convey tone. Interpretation is now 100% in the hands of the reader (no matter what the intent of the writer is).  When we communicate exclusively through email, we can set ourselves up for a lot of lost communication.

The reality is, even though face to face holds the highest levels of communication richness and will provide better possibilities for effective communication – we just don’t have the luxury of this often. As our worlds become more virtual, we will see less and less face to face interactions. The power of communication richness lies in understanding what we are working with and adjusting.

If you know you are communicating virtually,  understand you have lost a large part of the elements that make communication effective. Take extra steps to bridge that gap. Ask for clarity more often, before jumping to conclusions or making assumptions. Take time to hop on a video chat versus a text, or even just pick up the phone – knowing our chances are higher of experiencing greater levels of communication. 

Katie Sparks, is the owner of SEE, Inc. Online Leadership Training. SEE Inc, works to ensure that online learning is affordable, effective and can be completed at your own pace. Katie has personally taught effective communication classes, classes on leadership essentials, classes on effective decision making, and more.