Messaging v. Communication
Message: ‘Any notice, word, or communication, written or verbal, sent from one person to another.’ [Webster’s Dictionary]
Electronic messaging offers remote ‘transmit and receive’ facilities in a transactional manner. The content may be subject to constraints e.g. the number of characters that can be used. A messaging ‘conversation’ consists of one or more set piece moves, rather like a chess game. Person A sends a message. It’s delivered to all intents and purposes instantly. Person B reads it, and if necessary replies with an answer at a time of their choosing.
People maintain a high degree of control over the process when messaging others. If an angry response is received for example, there is time to carefully word a reply; or there is the option to simply ignore the response completely; or even to claim the message was never received.
Communication: ‘Intercourse by words, letters, or messages; interchange of thoughts or opinions, by conference or other means; conference; correspondence.’ [Webster’s Dictionary]
The options available when messaging – of simply ignoring a response, for example – are not available in a face-to-face conversation, which much more dynamic and immediate than the set-piece world of messaging. Some communication can be achieved via a series of messages. But messaging is a very poor vehicle for meaningful communication – and most ‘difficult’ conversations are very meaningful.
- Is genuinely two-way, not simply a broadcast based on the assumption that no reply indicates understanding or acceptance;
- Is fluid and evolves unpredictably, with neither party in complete control of the content, the flow or the outcome;
- Uses an array of mechanisms to convey meaning, with body language, and voice tone being much more important that the words used.
In fact, 55% of communication is visual (body language, eye contact) and 38% is vocal (pitch, speed, volume, tone of voice).
When messaging, we are relying on the meagre 7% of communication which is delivered by the words we use. And that’s why things go so badly wrong when we rely on messaging to deliver meaningful communication.