Communication skills that have impact … choose the right medium

In the 21st century, we have so many ways to communicate. Is each communication medium interchangeable? Should you use whichever one is fastest or most convenient for you?

Does it make any difference whether you IM or phone someone? And when should you use letter correspondence? When is a handwritten note most appropriate?

Does the reason or purpose or event make any difference? For example, a co-worker’s bereavement; a vendor’s terminal illness; someone’s adoption or job promotion; a billing inquiry, a credit request on your account, inquiring for information on a job posting, and so much more.

The only way to develop a sure confidence is to study the mediums of communication, the purpose and the relationships. So let’s get started!

Email, U.S. postal mail, instant messaging, texting, telephone, social media, voice mail or face-to-face. We need to know when to use technology and when the “Human Moment” is critical. How do we determine that? We have to be a good decision-maker. Here are some questions to ask yourself during the decision-making process:

  • Could the message I’m delivering be misconstrued or misinterpreted in any way?
  • Could the information I’m communicating be taken as hurtful in any way?
  • Could I come across as being prejudiced or biased?
  • Is this bad news for the recipient?
  • Because the receiver can’t hear my tone in an email, will she know I’m just joking?

While we won’t always make the best choices, we can at least try to make better choices by considering the following.


Start with the end in mind by asking yourself these questions:

  • What is my purpose for communicating with this person?
  • What information am I sending?
  • What do I need from the other person?
  • What do I hope will happen as a result of communicating with this person?

Once you determine your goal in communicating, try to answer the following questions.

Are you …

  • Trying to build rapport or gain trust?
  • Relaying a message?
  • Informing co-workers of important news?
  • Disclosing confidential information?
  • Introducing yourself?
  • Expressing an idea or thought?
  • Providing data?
  • Enlightening others to a new idea?


Then think about your relationship to the recipient.

  • How long have you known him/her?
  • Co-worker?
  • High-level executive?
  • Business associate?
  • Staff member?
  • Vendor?
  • Mentor?
  • Civic figure?

Select Media

  • Email
  • Face-to-face
  • Instant messaging
  • Internal correspondence
  • Voice mail
  • Telephone
  • Texting
  • Mail delivery
  • Other

Human Moments™:

In his article for, Chuck Martin quoted a manager who described face-to-face communication this way: “We need to take vacations from our BlackBerrys, computers and voicemail and get out and talk to everyone in the organization. Nothing can replace open and honest face-to-face communication.” Think about that quote for a moment. Do you agree or disagree? Why?

Nothing will ever replace our regard for the respect and sensitivity of a well-placed face-to-face conversation. Nothing matches the significance of your smile, your genuineness, the sparkle of your eyes, the tone of your voice and how these in total affect the recipient’s perception of your message. Everyone likes to receive human moments … ensure you provide them to others often.

Joan Burge is known as the visionary of the administrative profession. She has written four books for assistants including the Amazon best-seller Who Took My Pen Again? Joan has produced over 200 educational videos for assistants, hosts monthly webinars, created more than 150 courses for assistants, hosts the Annual Conference for Administrative Excellence, and coaches executives and assistants on building strategic partnerships. You can learn more at