The Medium is the Message, and the Milkshake

I saw a tweet recently in which the poster expressed concern that many of her students prefer communicating via text to speaking face to face. Many of the responses to her tweet said, in essence, “I am more comfortable texting, so that’s how I do it.”

We all have preferences about all kinds of things. Ice cream flavors, sports teams, coffee or tea or neither. Many of our preferences, like these, don’t have an impact on other people. However, communication style definitely does not fall into that category. If I order a chocolate milkshake  and you order a vanilla one, great. We both get what we want. But if I want a chocolate milkshake and I want to text my order to the ice cream shop that only takes orders at the counter, everybody loses. I don’t get the milkshake, and they don’t get the sale.

There is a lot to be thought and written about this topic, but the main thing I want to say today is this: please consider that your choice of medium—phone, email, face to face, text, whatever–affects everyone you communicate with. It is worthwhile not only to ask what others prefer, but also to observe how the outcomes of the communication vary depending on the medium. If you’re not getting great outcomes, or if people (including you) are frustrated, it’s time to make some intentional choices about how, when, and on what platform you connect.

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