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Updated 29 Feb 2020

Say what?

Avoid communication pitfalls and getting your wires crossed. Choose the right medium for your message.

Su-Mari Du Bruyn, Entrepreneur, 02 March 2013  Share  0 comments  Print

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It’s one thing to know what the common communication pitfalls are, but quite another to ensure that they don’t trip us up in the work place.

The most interesting thing is that more than 50% of the common communication pitfalls can be avoided by merely choosing the correct communication medium.

Often we merely resort to old habits when it comes to communication. We’re so used to always communicating on email for example, that it is no longer a conscious choice.

We just press the new message button (almost as if on auto pilot) when we have information to share.

Before we consider the factors to be weighed when selecting a communication medium, it’s perhaps important to first consider why. 

People tend to lose sight of the fact that we communicate for a reason. It could be to share information that we expect that person to include in their decision making or to get someone to take action.

Whatever your reason for communicating, consciously choosing the most appropriate communication medium could significantly increase your chances of having the outcome that you want.

Factors to consider when selecting a communication medium:

1) Distance:

The distance and location to where your message needs to travel to may automatically exclude certain communication mediums.

2) Importance:

Not all communication mediums have the functionality to indicate importance and if an individual already suffers from an overload of a certain communication type (eg. emails) using something completely different may in fact prevent your message from getting lost in the ‘noise’.

If you message is extremely important, you may need to consider whether the communication medium you are considering guarantees receipt (e.g. an email will not reach someone if they are not in front of their inbox).

3) Speed:

The speed with which you need to get the message to the intended recipient may automatically exclude certain communication mediums.

Similarly, if a communication medium does allow for instant delivery it may not be wise to send an unimportant message to someone’s cell phone in the middle of the night.

4) Record keeping:

A verbal conversation (if not recorded) may not be ideal if you need to have a record of the conversation.

5) Shortest (most direct) route:

Ensure that your message gets through to the right person and not lost in translation.

6) Recipient:

Your recipient may not have access to technology or may not be very adept with technology and as a result using a communication medium not reliant on technology may be a more appropriate choice.

If the recipient has a disability or is not literate, you also have to keep this in mind when you select your communication medium.

7) Distortions:

Choose a communication medium with the lowest probability of being distorted – if you are not an adept communicator or maybe have a very heavy accent, then a verbal communication medium is possibly not the best choice for you.

Similarly, using a hand written note if your hand writing is difficult to decipher may also not be the best choice.

Selecting the most appropriate communication medium is one of the critical steps in getting your communication right the first time.

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About the author

Su-Mari Du Bruyn, Entrepreneur

Su-Mari Du Bruyn is co-founder of Adapt To Change. She is a qualified HR practitioner and logistics specialist and is passionate about Continuous Improvement and people development. Through Adapt To Change she assists businesses to improve their business performance and better engage their staff. Su-Mari also recently launched her e-book business guide, The Power to Ignite. Available exclusively on for Kindle, The Power to Ignite is a practical guide to the powerful art of Continuous Improvement, sharing proven methodology and highlighting important dos and don’ts in engaging staff and improving business results.

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