It is a classic statistic that of course has been tested and debated. Regardless of how accurate the statistic is, I think it's safe to say that the majority of our communication is not based in the words we say, but all the factors around them.
For the sake of this post, let's take the percentages at face value. Have you ever considered the implications of communication when you are robbed of your non-verbals? Take texting for example. Texting is extremely popular and I don't see it going away anytime soon, but in that form of communication we are limited to only our words – and I guess punctuation and emojis. This means that we are robbing other folk roughly 93% of all that we're trying to communicate, leaving a ton open to interpretation. And you know there have been at least 10 times where you've read way too much into a text than what the person intended. You send a text saying, "Do you want to go Johnny's Bar or Wilde? :)" They type back, "Whatever." Then you get all worked up because you think they're being short and they didn't use a happy punctuation like an exclamation point or an emoji with a smiley face and sunglasses. Meanwhile, the other person simply just doesn't care. Then you meet at the bar and they can't understand why you're pissed. I've seen it 1000 times.
How much more effective would the decision have been made if you chose to pick up the phone instead of having a text exchange? I know, I know. It's 2015 and the idea of using your cellular telephone as, well, a phone, is so 2005. We've bought into the idea that texting is easier and more convenient, but have you ever considered how much more work it takes? You have, because we've all gotten to the point where the back and forth texting is just overwhelming and we realized a 15 second phone call would actually solve it.
But one of the realities that is still blowing me away is that while I gain I gain 38% of what I'm trying to communicate back with a phone call, I'm still robbing whoever it is a whopping 55%! This is crazy when I think about how much I'm on the phone with prospects and clients or with family. I don't know if this is a major problem though I want to claim it is. I've been an advocate for a while of still using the phone as a phone; I'm definitely in the minority here. If I have to chose between texting and a phone call, I prefer the phone, though I've become a big texter over the years. Yet now I want to advocate as much as possible for face-to-face conversations with people! We have substitutes in our culture to try and get back the other 55%, like Skype and FaceTime, but it doesn't do it full justice.
I have a few takeaways that I want to share:
- Texting isn't bad: I'm not Teddy the Text Hater. I think it is a super helpful means of communication and I like it. I love texting my Wifey and it is definitely her preferred means of communcation.
- Know the limitations: I think if you're someone who is always looking to improve how you communicate with people, you should know the limitations of your medium. Words on a screen can only communicate so much. Spoken words are better, but still don't convey facial expressions, hand motions (my personal favorite as an Italian), or body language.
- Maximize what you can control: Given the medium, learn how you can maximize it. I have often been told that the tone of my voice communicates critique or frustration even though that's not how I'm trying to communicate. I wonder how this comes off over the phone. The point is, there are areas of communication, regardless of the medium, that we can improve and master so that even if the receiver doesn't get all the forms, they get 100% of the form I can give. Verbally, this can be tone, volume, inflection, whatever. With texts and e-mails, well, it can be emojis :)
And Go Hawks!!!