It’s hard to think of a different reality with fewer choices for communication, but a little over 20 years ago there was only one reliable means of distance communication: landline phones. Nowadays, with a plethora of different text or voice-based apps, and even with some differentials like the use of emoticons or even video calls, it’s hard to imagine that the landline phone was so important for business and personal matters.
"Yes, we're always up to date regarding new technology, rest assured"
But it’s not because we’ve seen a huge influx of text-based communication in the later years that it means it’s the best way for communicating. Each one has its advantages and disadvantages, and it’s important to understand the context so we can choose the right tool for delivering our messages.
Everyone tends to show their preferences over voice or text, claiming a more skilled set of communication expressions over one or another. But personal conveniences shouldn’t be the decisive factor when opting for the right tool to deliver a message. Knowing which one will bring more positive results must always trump personal bias.
On the record
If there’s a necessity for keeping a record of the content discussed during those message exchanges then text has an advantage over voice. Even though it’s possible to record talking over web calls or phone interactions, the way that text is delivered automatically makes a record of everything. Every involved party will have this record, making it easier for tracking specific points of a conversation without any kind of second-guessing.
The simple act of writing requires a preorganization of our ideas and thoughts because it’s harder to keep pouring whatever comes to mind into written words. That naturally creates more condensed and organized messages, straight to the point, without any unnecessary distractions from the topic.
Tone and emotions
On the other hand, this kind of precision regarding the topic leaves little space for emotion interpretation. Unlike voice, which carries tone and inflection that helps to better understand the context and real goals of the message, text is completely deprived of this. Especially under more serious environments, where it is completely unprofessional to express text with the aid of emoticons. Body language is a huge part of our communication skills, and text completely mines this.
Text might require more skillful wordplay to deliver a message with no room for misinterpretation. Both grammatical errors and the mentioned lack of tone could hurt the true meaning of the message, something that could be quickly and easily addressed with the use of voice.
"Of course I'm paying attention to everything you say"
Text is a good way for delivering a series of responses cascading from each other, but it’s hardly ideal for achieving a high level of discussion with more than two parties. The rhythm of the conversation over voice incentivize more varied inputs than text, where even in the (dreaded by some) group chats it’s hard to achieve a productive discussion.
So, who wins?
As you can see, the best form of communication still depends on the goals of each message. Contrary to popular belief, which tends to “kill” the former technology as soon as another one emerges, all forms of communication are still relevant today.
In the near future, we’ll do another posting listing specific situations and what is the best suitable communication format for them.