Could Text Messages And Emails Be Hurting Business Communication?



The age of the telephone, at least in the traditional sense, has been in decline for some time. For businesses, a great deal of focus has been shifted to the internet for their communication needs as many of the 11 million meetings per day in the U.S. occur over video conference or VoIP (voice over internet protocol).

Even the way we communicate with each other has changed, with the text message becoming more common among the younger generation. In-person communication has been abandoned for the digital, and for Millennials and Generation Z, even phone calls are considered “passe.”

But with these text communications come issues, according to Dr. Nicholas Epley in his book, Mindwise.

“People using [these] mediums think they are communicating clearly because they know what they mean to say, receivers are unable to get this meaning accurately but are certain that they have interpreted the message accurately, and both are amazed that the other side can be so stupid,” he writes.

Text-based communication is ambiguous, he believes.

That is one of the messages that Polycom’s EVP of Engineering is trying to illustrate: why prioritizing the personal matters in business communication, like video conferencing, should be the new normal.

A study of 25,234 workers, commissioned by Polycom, showed that 77% of them now take advantage of “flexible” working in one way or another. This means that remote work has become commonplace in the business world.

Dr. Epley believes that this can come at a cost.

He says, “Often, the miscommunications in this are minor. Resulting in redundant workflows, or at worst, missed deadlines. However, the touchier the topic, the more catastrophic the consequences.”

Sending an email can feel so much less confrontational than talking face to face with another individual, but it can be well worth the interpersonal struggle to host a video conference, or to talk on the phone. Voice, facial and body language, all say more than words ever could.

Dr. Epley encourages the business professional to take part in things like VoIP, or video conferences, even during remote work, to resist the temptation to go purely digital and remove the human experience.

“The only way to overcome the challenges of text is to leave text behind.”

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