13Feb

Proper Communication in the digital age

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“…the tongue is a small part of the body, yet it has great pretensions. Think how small a flame sets a huge forest ablaze.” James 3:5

The age of communication. So many avenues of communication are at our disposal — cell phones, smart phones, the internet, Twitter, Facebook, video chat, texting, email, the list goes on and on. But how effectively are these mediums being used?

Are the words we speak or type meaningful? When we make first contact with individuals are we making a positive first impression? My theory is that with each advance in the technological world of communications — the more we cease to effectively communicate. Especially in the business world.

The Phone

Let’s start with one of the first modern communication marvels. How many of you remember being taught phone etiquette? For me, that lesson came in freshman college speech class. Each of us had to sit in front of the classroom with an old rotary dial phone (disconnected) while we engaged in a pretend conversation with the teacher. We were taught to identify ourselves, be cordial, have a pen and paper handy and so forth. Sounds silly, right? Well, I did think it was silly at the time, but I practice those skills to this day at my work desk. First impressions, even over the phone, can go a long way in establishing a networking relationship.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve called an actual business number only to be greeted by a less than enthusiastic “yes” or “hello” and then silence. If this is your business line shouldn’t you answer “Hello, such and such business…so and so speaking”? Churches and ministries are the biggest offenders on this rule.

Email

Email is probably the second most popular form of business communication. Without being able to hear the inflections of the human voice, it’s hard to determine the “attitude” in which an email is composed. Sure ALL CAPS could mean that someone is e-yelling, but it could also mean the caps lock is stuck and they have no choice.

Before sending out email, make sure you read it through for grammatical and spelling errors. And give it a good read for “attitude”. Make sure nothing in the email could be taken in the wrong spirit. The ease of email could also be a detriment to your communication. Instead of firing off rapid responses, take the time to compose a thoughtful response. It’s so easy to misinterpret an email, the last thing you want to do is rapidly fire off a response in the wrong spirit. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sent off emails I wished I didn’t. Remember, once you hit that “send” button…it’s gone.

Texting

Well, what can I say about texting that all of us haven’t heard before? The bad grammar, the misspelled words, the dangers of texting while driving or walking. I prefer not to use this mode of communication partly because my thumbs just won’t cooperate and partly because I can’t fit my thought into the space allotted. Again, the biggest problem with texting is just the impersonal nature of it. It’s so easy to just rapidly fire off a text without thinking about the consequences and not having to see the other person’s reaction. So like email, just think twice.

Facebook/Twitter/LinkedIn

I actually find these social mediums to be a very valuable tool. In radio, I find that artists and promoters will actually keep these outlets more up-to-date than their actual websites. The problem is that some people are better at posting updates than others and we need to evaluate the value of each individual post. Are we turning people off by the constant posting? Does the post have any real value? (Describing your latest ham sandwich would fall in the little to no value category)

Properly used, social media sites can be a great way of effectively communicating. But we need to watch for clutter while at the same time making sure we post relevant, effective content.

Conclusion

Call me old school, but in the end I think an honest face-to-face meeting and handshake is still the best form of communication. But whether or not you agree, and despite what medium we use to communicate, the same thing is true today as it was during James’ era. Who we are is reflected in the spoken and written words we put forth. In today’s day and age it is so easy to engage in vain communication. Let’s make sure each word we say and each word we type, text, or post is given the proper vetting it deserves. After all it is a reflection of who we are, and more importantly the one we claim to follow — Christ.

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