We’ve all been there. Someone sends you an email asking you a question. You respond and ask for some clarification. Three days of back-and-forth emails later, you get fed up with how slow the discussion is going and call the other person. Three minutes later, you both have all the answers you wanted, and now sit there wondering why it took three days to conclude a three minute conversation.
There’s unfortunately not a lot of hard evidence out there for how best to leverage our varying communication and collaborative tools. I can find studies that show video is nearly identical with face-to-face for gaining trust, but I’ve found little that shows which tool is best to use when. I hope we can open that dialogue here.
Before the tips, lets look at the mediums we usually communicate through: Video (with Audio), Audio only (phone/VOIP), email, and instant messaging (IM/chat/SMS).
We call the first two (Video and Audio) synchronous because there is an immediate dialogue; points are conveyed and responded to immediately. The latter two are asynchronous because each time content is conveyed there may be a significant amount of time before it is received and responded to. Each step in an asynchronous dialogue can take from seconds to days (or longer) to be conveyed. In sychronous communication, all parties are working simultaneously (synchronously) on the discussion, whereas in asynchronous communication, parties are working on different parts of the discussion at different times (asynchronously).
Now that we know the landscape, when is the best time to use each tool?
How Much Discussion is Needed?
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