Communication Principles

Communication - noun - The imparting or exchanging of information between individuals through a common system of symbols by speaking, writing, or using some other medium.

TL;DR

For successful communication you may want to follow this order:

  1. Face 2 Face
    A quick talk is worth a dozen emails. A well prepared and executed meeting is worth a hundred emails. Besides, having a talk provides the opportunity to stand up and have a walk in the office, which is a good thing for your health, too (some may argue).
  2. Video Call
    All benefits of face 2 face, but without the physical stress of walking around :)
  3. Phone Call
    Many of the benefits of face 2 face, although missing all nonverbal signals like facial expression and body language (which may account for between 60 and 65 percent of all communication).
  4. Chat
    If you can't talk, but require a quick info.
  5. Intranet
    For all information which shall be available and comprehensible for all team members or everyone within the company. Most platforms allow to subscribe for notifications regarding updates to specific pages and/or topics.
  6. Email
    If communication has to be recorded in writing. Or for things that can wait.

Tips regarding emails

Once upon a time it was a joy to receive emails (yes, those times existed!). But today we fight against the flood of emails hitting our inbox. But before we come to some golden rules about how to making email less pita, lets have a look at what's so bad about emails in the first place:

  • Writing and reading emails often costs more time than a conversation.
  • Emails often lead to misunderstandings, both on the factual and a relationship level.
  • Bad emails lead to questions, discussions - in short: to even more emails.
  • The more emails are sent, the less attention is paid to them.
  • Important emails are lost in the flood of emails.

So what are those five golden rules for crafting valuable emails?

  1. Enter email recipients in the correct fields.
    To = Response, reaction, or action required
    To + ! = Urgent response, reaction, or action required. Use very sparingly.
    CC = For information only. You don't have to do anything. One should only be informed, but there is no hurry. Not everyone has to be informed about everything.  You should consider exactly who is when in the CC from which email.
    BCC = Only for rare circumstances, like e.g. sending an information to multiple recipients without disclosing personal information to each other.
  2. A meaningful subject matters
    The subject should be a short summary of the content or request. Subject like "FYI", "As discussed..." and "Info" shall be avoided. They are hard to search for later on and not easily understandable as a "To Do".
  3. No harsh emails
    Emails last forever, especially harsh ones. Emails are written communication, can be duplicated and redistributed, are not only read by the recipient, are misunderstood, etc. etc.
    You DON'T want to have one of those out in the wild!
  4. Write reasonable and well formatted emails
    No spelling mistakes, no "without dot and comma" sentences, no writing everything and always in small letters, NO SCREAMING, no endlesstapewormsentenceswhichnoonelikestoread. It may be hart in times of Twitter and chats, but try to do your recipient a favor.
  5. Read again before sending
    Sloppy emails with typos and missing punctuation marks fall back on the sender - on you.
  6. Read again before sending
    Sloppy emails with typos and missing punctuation marks fall back on the sender - on you.

What communication tools to use

Nowadays there are a plethora of tools and services available to communicate with each other, may it be one-on-one, a team meeting or in big, townhall-like interactive presentations. For messengers alone this includes e.g. WhatsApp, Skype, Teams, Slack, Threema, Signal, Telegram and Discord - to name just a few. To decide on which tool(s) to use, the following questions may be taken into account:

  • Does the tool play nice with your existing tech stack and are client applications available on all the platforms (Win/Mac/Linux/iOS/Android/Web) you are using?
  • Is it easy to get in touch and invide external users or can you only reach people within your organization?
  • Does the tool support the amount of participants required for your use case?
  • Where is the service hosted and does it fulfill your privacy and data protection requirements / regulations?
  • Is it easy to use and self-explaining?
  • What are the initial and running costs for the required amount of users?

A good initial overview can be found on Wikipedia

General recommendation

Whatever tools you are using: Don't split up written communication over too many different channels. All is good in the very moment the communication happens, but your future self will go insane digging and searching through all the various tools trying to find this super important message.

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