Communication Chasm

Have you been in a communication chasm?  You need an immediate answer from your boss, your partner or your friend and they don’t respond.  Ugh.  It’s almost like in today’s day and age of immediate communication and overload of technology that communication comes to a stand still.  Some people respond to email.  Some people will only instant message or text (hello, anyone under 30) or something really old school: a face-to-face meeting.  How often does that happen?  Well, if the Millenials only want to text and Gen X only wants to email, the Boomers want a phone call and the Traditionals want to be eye ball to eye ball, how are we all going to all get along?

Sometimes you need to be Sherlock Holmes to try and figure out the “sweet spot” for a response.  Hm, I sent an email last week, left a voice mail yesterday…I wonder how I will get the response I need to reach an important decision before this project deadline.  We have all this technology and yet we can’t seem to get on the same page.  We have a communication chasm.

So how do we jump the divide and start exchanging information and make some decisions? Here are a few tips and ideas:

1. Open Mind. You’re going to need to start with one.  We all have our preferences.  I would love to email every person in my life and think that it will serve all my purposes.  It won’t.  Sometimes I need to call.  Sometimes I need to be face to face.  Get out from behind your PC or smart phone and test the waters.

2. Embrace. If you have a child with a cell phone. Scratch that.  If you have a child, they have a cell phone.  You will need to learn to text.  There is no other way.  Embrace the change.  My sister-in-law told me that her 80 year old mother can text because that was the only way her twenty-something granddaughters would communicate.  It’s never too late to embrace change.

3. Learn. About a year ago at an executive meeting, a colleague brought up that his daughter was traveling over seas.  I asked if he had “Skyped” with her.   Most of the gentlemen at the meeting were Boomers with laptops and camera phones.  They looked at me like I had said a dirty word.  They need to dust off their cameras and learn some new methods.  Technology is changing at such a rapid pace that you need to stay ahead of the wave.

4. Adapt.  Take some of your new found techno intelligence and start using it.  Scan your audience and try some different methods.  If you notice that someone always leaves a voice mail in response to your email, then call them back.  If your child texts a response to your voice mail, text them back.  Don’t be tied to your normal communication channel. To be more effective, you are going to need to adapt.

5. Relax. Obviously this is tough for someone impatient like myself.  Take a breath…actually a couple of deep breaths as advised by the book, The Willpower Instinct by Dr. Kelly McGonigal.  Slowing your breath for about 5 minutes can really take the edge off of the anxiety.  Just because information is flooding by doesn’t mean you need to jump into the flow.  Unless you are in a fire or earthquake, it will all work out.

6. Give. The Golden Rule.  Sometimes it pays to be the one who steps forward with communication.  Stay away from building silos in your life because someone has not been communicating as frequently as you would like.  Take the first step to reaching out to them.  Try using their chosen communication channel as a first step.

7. Assumptions.  Check your assumptions.  If your husband didn’t return an urgent text, do not assume he has been in a car accident.  If your child hasn’t acknowledged a money transfer into his account, do not assume he’s been robbed.  If your client hasn’t returned your email, do not assume that the deal is dead or, worse yet, they don’t want to work with you.   Assumptions are a dangerous barrier to communication.

Communication channels are an ever-changing landscape of possibilities.  You may not stay ahead of the curve or be an early adopter, but if you want to span the divide of the chasm, you’ll need to start taking some steps.

How do you jump the divide?

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