Preferred Methods of Communication

Posted by Todd Smith

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The November 2009 issue of Success Magazine reported the results of a readership survey concerning preferred methods of communication.

Nine hundred and fifty people responded to the question “What is your preferred method of communicating?”


Here are their answers:

  • 3% Text Messaging
  • 5% Social Media
  • 13% Phone Call
  • 39% Face to Face
  • 40% Email

I always make it a point to read every page of every issue of the magazine, but this one chart displayed on less than a quarter of a page really got my attention.

Professionals’ Preference for Communicating

Let’s look at the characteristics of the 950 people who responded. The mean household income was $126,300, compared to the national index of $73,600. Fifty-three percent were self-employed, compared to the national index of 6.4%, and 89% have a college education, compared to the national index of 60.7%.

The glaring statistic here is that only 3% of these professionals prefer communicating via text messaging. It’s not surprising when you think about how texting works and the disruption it can occur in your workday. When you send people text messages, you are most likely interrupting a thought process, meeting, or conversation. As pointed out in Controlling Interruptions, every time you are interrupted, you lose 10 minutes of productivity.

Modeling Accelerates the Rapport Building Process

As I shared in Modeling Builds Rapport, the more you appear to have in common with people, the more they will be drawn to you. This is why your friends are likely those with whom you share common interests. So when I saw the statistics in the magazine survey, I immediately thought about how I could use this data to accelerate the rapport-building process.

Here is how I have adjusted the way I communicate. First, I am now intentional about communicating with people using their preferred method. In the case of people who prefer to talk on the phone, I call them. If they prefer getting together face to face, then I suggest a meeting.

I have learned that most people initiate their communications using their preferred method. So I simply observe their method and use it in my communications with them.

The Benefits of Using Email

This survey also made me think about my preferred method of communication and the rationale for using it. By and large, I choose email because of its time-management benefits.

I can return emails efficiently during scheduled blocks of time. Using email prevents me from being interrupted by non-urgent calls and text messages. I can type 5-10 times faster on my computer keypad than on my cell phone keypad. It allows me the flexibility to return emails early in the morning or late at night.

So, for me, email is the most convenient and productive way to communicate. But at the same time, I am careful not to be so dependent on email that my important relationships suffer. For this reason, I am intentional about calling and getting together with people periodically.

Theirs vs. Yours

When I build relationships with people, I use their preferred method of communication. Then, as appropriate, I transition the bulk of our communications to email since it is so much more productive. I use the words “as appropriate,” because in a sales environment, a client’s preferences should always be followed as much as possible.

Your Takeaways

  • Determine your preferred method of communication and rationale for using it.
  • Avoid sending business professionals text messages unless you absolutely know they fall within the 3% category that prefers texting.
  • When building valued relationships, be intentional about communicating with people using their preferred method.
  • As appropriate, slowly transition people to using your preferred method.

Using people’s preferred method of communication is one of those little things that matter in building relationships.

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About the Author:

Todd Smith is a successful entrepreneur of 34 years and founder of Little Things Matter. To receive Todd’s lessons, subscribe here. All Todd’s lessons are also available on iTunes as downloadable podcasts.

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