It’s Better In-Person

The most productive scenario for effective communication is a one-on-one discussion or small team meeting; it provides the best opportunity to ensure that the message being heard is the same as the message being spoken, making the message actionable.  Every other communication method is a compromise, driven by circumstance or preference. 

According to communication experts, less than 10% of our spoken words are heard and understood; about 40% of message comprehension is due to how well the message is delivered, how well it connects with the audience.  The remaining 50% is related to what the audience observes while a message is being presented, how they perceive the speaker’s attitude, appearance, and body language.  The consistency with which the speaker’s attitude and actions align with the spoken words reveals the speaker’s commitment to the message, how they feel about it, the driving motivation behind the message.

Being in-person is the most productive communication method because it enables the participants to fully engage in all the elements of communication.

To maximize the productivity of your in-person conversations, consider these steps:

  1. Practice active listening.  Focus on hearing the spoken, and unspoken, message instead of rehearsing your response.  When a speaker’s attitude or body language seems inconsistent with the words being spoken, ask why the perspective being shared is important to them; then, summarize what you heard to confirm its accuracy.
  2. Seek to learn rather than persuade.  Though you may be convinced that yours is the best way forward, resist the impulse to prematurely persuade the others to agree with you.  Instead, approach these discussions with the mindset that there’s always something new to learn.  If the conversation stalls without a resolution, ask the conflicting participants to describe their preferred outcomes for the issue and what is needed to achieve their vision; then discuss the differences.  Appreciate that the dialogue may reveal a better approach, and one that enables the participants to bond around a shared commitment to that resolution.
  3. Summarize the results of the discussion.  To ensure clarity and accuracy after the discussion has been concluded, document the results of the meeting, and share a draft of these notes with the participants for editing.  Most participants’ memories of the conversation will vary and wane over time.

How often are you choosing in-person conversations versus alternatives when possible?

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