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NO OBLIQUE-SPEAK: Part II – Human Interaction (The Order of Preference)

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

–  Bernard Shaw


What follows is Part II of a four-part essay on corporate communication. While the basic information has universal application, the focus is on the communication concerns of fast-paced, early stage, entrepreneurial and intrapreneurial ventures.  

Position Statement

Business (life) Means Building and Maintaining Relationships

As a university lecturer, mentor and trainer of hundreds of health promotion professionals, I always stress the importance of C4 (crystal clear communication is critical).  The order of preference for business—and personal—communication is:

  • In-Person Face-to-Face
  • Electronic Face-to-Face (e.g., FaceTime, Skype)
  • Telephone
  • Video Message
  • Audio Message
  • Descriptive Email
  • Text Messages (Think 140 Characters or Less)

In-Person Face-to-Face

Of course, you’ve never done this but we all know tales of people one office apart who text or send emails instead of getting off their butts and walking ten steps.  Or, even worse, people in the same room who text one another.  Yikes!  What ever happened—now, I’m sounding like my father—to shaking a hand, looking someone in the eye, and saying whatever it is you need to say? As mentioned earlier, language goes way beyond written or even spoken words.  As the saying goes, “Eyes are windows to the soul.”  Whenever possible—good news, bad news or just chatting—make it in-person,  face-to-face.

Electronic Face-to-Face

While not the same as being there, today’s technology permits the next best thing, video chats.  Whether it’s a client in London or my granddaughter in Providence, they are just a click away.  I can see their eyes, hear all of the voice variations, and even catch non-verbal facial expressions and a bit of body language.  In other words, we get to communicate.  Pretty cool…


We’re moving down the communication scale but still doing pretty good.  Gone our the days of party-lines, mortgage-your-house-long-distance charges, and waiting outside a phone booth (with a pocket full of change).  In this era of affordable cell phones and manageable rates there is no reason for not doing both business—as well as social catch-ups—in real-time.

Video Message

Video messages, like the ones I use on my blog, are fine for summaries, quick hellos, and for introducing articles, business documents, and news events. The recipient gets to see the author and the author is able to enhance the message using visual and auditory cues. The key is to keep them as short as possible, preferably less than five minutes and certainly no more than ten. There’s a reason why broadcast television breaks every twelve minutes and why commercial messages are sold in 5, 10, 15 and 30 second segments (60 also but these are increasingly rare).

Audio Message

Not very intimate but, at times, a pretty good alternative to real-time. If you simply want to convey information with affect—and you don’t need an immediate response—an audio message works great.  However if you are leaving business or personal messages at 3am because you want to make sure you don’t have a live connection, I suggest you figure out what you are afraid of. And, oh yes, you are afraid of something. Like I said, figure it out…

Descriptive Email

Other than as a way of distributing pure information—who, what, when, where, why and how much—or, as a way to transmit business documents, video or audio messages, email should be avoided. If you are shooting for a humorous, sarcastic or sardonic tone, or, if you find the need to frequently bold,  italicize, or exclaim!, business email is the WRONG place to do it.  Most people simply can’t pull it off (some can…but not many) and the result can range from confusion and annoyance all the way to anger and loss of business and business relationships.

Text Messages

Other than quick hits like…

  • “Meeting time changed to 2:00.”
  • “Just leaving the office.”
  • “Don’t forget the J&J report.”
  • “Call me ASAP.”
  • “Where the hell are you?”
  • “On my way home I’ll get milk , bread, and (okay) beer…looks like snow!”

…and other easily understood one-liners, stay away from text messages. They have no place in business communications. This is particularly the case with acronyms and emoticons. Don’t use them because OMG  IGWS I won’t be  HOYEW!  ;-(

Coming Up…

Part III:  Building and Maintaining Relationships – A Formula

Part IV:  Summary (So What?)

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