The Colors of Communication: How To Share What You Know

Done well mixing can produce great results.
   You are probably familiar with the primary colors; red, blue, yellow.  The reason they are so important is that they cannot be created by mixing any other colors.  (My visible spectrum scientists please work with me here. OK?)  They have a certain property that makes them unique and irreplaceable.  There is absolutely no substitute for blue.  The same applies to workplace communication.  There is no substitute for email, person to person, and over the phone communication.  These three are the ‘primary colors’ of workplace communication and it is important that each method is used correctly for the type of information it was created for.

          Email has become the go-to for any information that needs to be shared with a lot of people and referenced later.  Emails can be created to hold vast amounts of information, from attached documents, to who has all seen it previously, and what they said.  Email is the perfect outlet for the new workplace policy or announcement.  However, email is not the best choice to ask a colleague, “Did you watch the game last night?”  While the impact on your daily activities would be minimal, it is the crossover of business and personal communication platforms that mixes colors.  If you cannot take the time to place a phone call, or text, and ask about the game, it probably isn’t that important.  Better yet, wait until after work and enjoy the conversation at a local hangout to help relieve stress from the day.

          Using a phone to call someone has become a lost art.  It seems we only pick up the phone when the complexity we need to convey has outpaced our writing ability, or when we receive a call from a telemarketer.  But why is it that telemarketer’s use the phone in the first place, isn’t email more effective?  Because you ensure positive communication, you know that what you had to share was received.  Also, there is the element of social courtesy – it is difficult to hang up on someone.  It is even more difficult to be rude to someone you know and see every day.  If your message is an important one, pick up the phone, even if it is to say, “Happy Birthday to you, Jim.”  The emotion that you can impart on a quick phone call can make all the difference.  Sometimes a phone call can come as a welcome excuse to take a break from their current task to the person on the other end.  Mix this color effectively with email by sending a quick follow up of the conversation when you get back to your office.

          Person to person communication is important, it is the reason we have meetings at a table and it put the ‘V’ in VTC.  However, person to person is not just limited to the conference room or golf-course; it can be an effective part of your everyday business communications strategy.  Don’t let the reason that you head to another office be because you have to hand over a document to be signed.  While office visits to the boss usually fall into one of two categories, good or bad, visits to the co-workers cubical can be for almost any reason.  Not only does person to person communication allow a large amount of idea sharing to be done quickly, but it also turns communication into an exercise in passive communication.  Only person to person allows you to read the messages your counterpart is sending with their body language.  You can quickly change course if the perceived reception is not taken very well.  If you’re in competition with coworkers, make the visit, it’ll help you to standout and appear harder working. Also, walking every now and then is good for your health!  But be careful, while tempting, in the hallway on the way to the restroom is NOT the place to share that the meeting was cancelled for tomorrow.

However you choose to communicate, just remember, while mixing colors every now and then can prove useful, their misuse can create some unexpected and ugly results.