Types of communication

2019-04-04

There are two ways to communicate: synchronous and asynchronous.

Asynchronous is a memo taped to the wall in the break room. Everyone gets to see it and read it on their own schedule. It’s time-efficient for the person delivering the message and the person receiving it. Then again, some people might not see it at all.

Synchronous communication is the dreaded meeting. Everyone sits in a room, and everyone gets to hear what everyone else has to say.

It’s fashionable right now to slam meetings as totally useless. I’m often one of them, so I think those people make some good points. Synchronous is expensive in terms of time, which is a real problem if you’re paying the people involved by the hour.

But synchronous communication also has value. It’s the only way to turn communicating into a shared human experience, and sometimes that’s the best way to get a message across. It’s also the only way to be sure that everyone who needs the message at least hears it.

The answer is not as clear as I make it out to be when I self-righteously demand that my colleagues justify the existence of a meeting, which by the way I’ve found gets me uninvited to some meetings. It takes disciplined wisdom to tell when it will be useful, and when we’re taking up a bunch of everyone’s time with something that could be a short email.

Since disciplined wisdom isn’t my strong suit, I still go ahead and try to avoid them whenever I can.