It’s Valentine’s Day, and yesterday my beloved husband surprised me with tickets to the opera Carmen. It was wonderful: the beauty, the passion, the drama, and the irritating ringing and glow of some cell phones during the production.
It made me think: to communicate with love to those around us means to communicate without distraction. I adore my i-Phone as much as anyone (I get nervous when we are separated even for a few minutes), but some restraint on when to use it and the many other technologies at our fingertips is key to communicating effectively.
Here are some guidelines from business communication experts John V. Thill and Courtland L. Bovee to keep us communicating fully while still taking advantage of all the excellent technology available.
First and foremost: Keep technology in perspective.
- Guard against information overload.
- Use technological tools productively; some tools can waste as much time as they save.
- Disengage from the computer frequently to communicate in person.
- Consider the power of the handwritten note. $100 will buy some nice flowers to give to your sweetie, but a poem written in your hand, well, enough said. (Ok, this one is mine)
When considering technology, remember that it is
- Simply a tool, a means by which you can accomplish certain tasks
- An aid to interpersonal communication, not a replacement for it
- Unable to think for you, communicate for you, or fill in the gaps for you
- Easy to get caught up in the “gee whiz” factor when new and different technologies first appear
The overuse or misuse of communication technology can lead to information overload, in which people receive more information than they can effectively process.
- Makes it difficult to discriminate between useful and useless information
- Lowers productivity
- Amplifies employee stress both on the job and at home—even to the point of causing health and relationship problems
- Has become such a serious productivity concern that research organizations such as the Information Overload Research Group have been founded to search for solutions
As a recipient, you often have some level of control over the number and types of messages you choose to receive. As such, you should
- Use powerful filtering and tagging capabilities to automatically sort incoming messages based on criteria you set to isolate high-priority messages that deserve your attention.
- Be wary of subscribing to too many blog feeds, Twitter groups, and other sources of recurring messages.
- Separate your need-to-know information from nice-to-know information, and make sure the latter doesn’t drown out the former.
As a sender, you can help reduce information overload by
- Making sure you don’t send unnecessary messages
- Letting people know if you send a message that isn’t urgent or crucial
- Letting people know if you send a message that requires no further action
- Marking “urgent” on messages when they are truly urgent
E-mail, IM, Twitter, Facebook, and other technologies are key parts of what has been called the “information technology paradox,” in which information tools can waste as much time as they save. Managers need to guide their employees in productive use of information tools because
- It’s too easy to send too many messages and to subscribe to too many blogs and other information sources.
- The flood of messages from an expanding array of electronic sources can significantly affect employees’ abilities to focus on their work.
- Personal use of technological tools can reduce productivity.
Users need to recognize the limitations of technology and remember the benefits of face-to-face communication.
Go outside today! In my town it will be 50 degrees! So put on your red scarf, take a fast jaunt around your office building or your neighborhood and think of all the people you love. With your phone turned off.
Happy Valentine’s Day!