Written vs Verbal Communication

I’ve been present to a specific source of pain at work recently: Communication.

Maybe this is just a pain point because of rapid growth? Maybe this is a skill we’re still developing? Maybe I’m the only one feeling this pain?

Anywho…

We tend to have a lot of audio/video meetings. There seems to be a fear that writing hurts velocity. It can take significant time for people to asynchronously read through a document, share their thoughts, and respond to questions. It’s faster to pull everyone into a meeting. That way all points can be discussed and everyone can swiftly get on the same page when areas of concern are encountered.

However…

Meetings are difficult to schedule. This gets harder as the group increases in size.

Meetings often have observers.

It’s easier to miss things in verbal communication. Complex ideas require thought. This can distract from the overall message. With verbal communication, what’s been said is in the past. With written communication, it’s easier to pick up from where you left off.

It’s difficult to achieve understanding in meetings. Suppose you need to clarify something. Then you have to interrupt the chain of thought to ask for clarity. Or you have to wait until a more appropriate time… But there’s no guarantee that you’ll remember your question by then.

Writing can be revisited when you forget things. Without writing, meetings are purely transient events. Once in the past, their conversations cease to exist. Only faulty memories remain.

It’s also easier to share ideas when they’re written. Sharing a document is easily scalable. It also prevents the quality of shared ideas from wasting away over time. (Try to recall all the details of a meeting you had last month.)

It seems like writing is a better communication method in many ways.

However, it seems that both methods could benefit from the addition of diagrams and illustrations.

I’m still pondering a couple questions.

Some people love audio/video conversations. It feels more connected. It’s better suited for their personality types. What would make writing more valuable to them?

I realize I framed this like a binary choice. It’s possible there’s another solution altogether. Maybe better meeting etiquette would help? (This may include providing agendas and taking minutes.)

Lots of exploring to do here…

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