Choosing the right means of communication is easier said than done! This is due to the fact that there are many variables at play, such as the message itself, the time constraints, the audience, and the consequences for example. We can group the most commonly used methods for communicating into two main sections: synchronous & asynchronous. Let’s talk a closer look at each one, as well as the pros and cons of the most common means of communication in each particular category.
Synchronous communication means that the communication is happening at the same time for all parties involved. There is basically no delay in getting a response. There are positives and negatives for using such communication, and here is a breakdown:
Best used when: Urgent matter, intricate/sensitive topics, needing immediate feedback.
- Get an immediate answer
- See emotions, facial expressions, body language
- Can discuss complex topics
- Can easily get off topic & last longer than anticipated
- Potentially costly disruption for the other party
- Not always as private as needed (especially in open offices)
Best used when: More than two people involved, multiple topics to cover, moderate urgency.
- Purpose to the discussion
- Scheduled & expected
- Opportunity for discussion in greater depth & more angles
- Can last longer than expected
- Negative perception
- Does not always involve all parties present
Best used when: Different locations between parties, have solid internet connection, conversational (no docs or files needed).
- Convenient, especially remotely
- Easy to relate/connect due to added visual
- Breaks down distance barriers
- Technology dependent (connection quality, bandwidth, software)
- Difficult for spontaneous sharing of info (writing notes, diagrams)
- Does not show whole spectrum of human interactions (energy, room settings, body language)
Best used when: Quick answer/feedback needed, large distances between parties, moderate urgency.
- Quick and easy to use (everyone has a phone)
- Simplest communication over vast distances (no need for high tech)
- Immediate interaction & feedback
- Non verbal communication cues are lost
- Person must be available to take your call
- Cannot share info (notes, files)
Chat is a unique form of communication in that it is both synchronous and asynchronous. It is asynchronous in nature, but people expect it to be synchronous.
Best used when: Busy but still needing feedback/answer, nothing complex or urgent, informal.
- Informal & easy to use
- Can have multiple conversations concurrently
- Feedback is usually quick (at least expected to be)
- Expectation of instant answers
- Harder to have a clear in-depth discussion
- Easier to misinterpret
Asynchronous simply means that their is a delay in the communication process. As mentioned above, chat can also be considered asynchronous, but let’s take a look at the more obvious cases:
Best used when: Need a record trail, formal nature to discussion, share docs/files, can wait for answer, multiple respondents.
- Can be used anytime, anywhere, 24/7/365
- Track record of all communication
- Can include files/documents
- Takes time to compose (formal tone expected)
- No idea if received properly (maybe in spam box)
- No idea when you will get a reply
This is along the lines of project management tools, such as Asana, GitHub, Wrike, Zendesk, and JIRA. The market is prime to further its massive growth, and thus this is becoming an increasingly popular form of communication.
Best used when: Deeper collaboration needed, progress tracking, not urgent in nature.
- Informal & action-oriented
- Ability to be highly specific & break down information per each individual
- Track record of all communication
- Delay in getting responses
- No human interactions
- Can be easily misinterpreted
Hopefully this has shed some light onto what type of communication you should use, depending on the situation at play. What’s your favorite method of communication within your team?