According to the experts, they only account for about 7% of the messaging in verbal communications. The tone accounts for 38%. And the body language 55%.
The challenge in this era of i-communications is to get the messaging transmitted accurately, without the sound of the voice and the body language.
That's a major reason why the human race currently is struggling against being misunderstood.
The results of those screwed-up attempts at sending an i-message range from lost business to irreversible damage to social relationships to winding up arrested.
How can mis-communications be prevented?
In a world in which there are few absolutes, there is one here. And, that's to err on the side of caution.
High risk is involved in:
Humor. After all, what is funny is subjective. It also touches on subject matter which may be controversial. Only when we know the professionals well should we leverage our wit. Incidentally, being a bit of a comic is a dangerous style to have in i-communications.
A classic example is making fun of all the media coverage of alleged sexual harassment. What we don't know is that our male customer's sister had been a victim. It's likely we will never hear from that customer again.
In addition, with the economy improving, most of the folks in business are intent on making money. They demand the tone of communications be all-business.
Going beyond the scope of the question or issue. In preparing their clients for court appearances, lawyers warn them to only answer the question and never to roam out of the box.
Providing more than that will, at the very least, distract the recipients from concentrating on the facts.
Usually what happens is much worse. We hand over information that can damage how we are perceived. In the digital version of small talk, the client asks if we enjoyed the weekend. The answer should be short and sweet. Explaining that we got a DUI in Maine is not recommended.
Criticism. If there is something negative to be communicated, then do that in person or, if that's not possible, over the phone. Those other mediums give us tools to soften any harshness. Without that kind of massaging, those on the receiving end of the communication may not even absorb the message.
A typical scenario is that the client is increasing the workload without adjusting the compensation. Don't attempt to re-negotiate in an email or text. Probably the client will just ignore that.
Instead, ask for an in-person meeting or set an appointment for a phone call.
Delivering Ultimatums. The common situation is that we are enraged. The client hasn't paid the invoice. The contract employee hasn't send the second part of the report. Therefore, it seems to make emotional sense to gun them down with words in an email or text.
If those words can be interpreted as a threat to cause harm, law enforcement might step in. The tamer version of that is the email or text will be used as "evidence" if the dispute goes public and/or to court or arbitration.
An effective alternative is to pick up the phone and express concern. "When I didn't receive payment I became worried that right now you might need other terms and conditions. Would the 'installment plan' work for you? Please let me know how we can resolve this together."
Takeaway: What could be useful is developing standard short "scripts" that you test out will deliver the message effectively, with no emotional static. Then rely on them. That not only saves time. It prevents trouble.
Get a second opinion about your marketing and advocacy communications. No pressure. No charge. Please contact Jane Genova, firstname.lastname@example.org or @genova_jane.