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Communication is the process of one person sending a message and another person receiving and understanding it. Your communication style helps determine whether the receiver understands the message you intended. That puts the burden of responsibility for communication on you, as the sender.

When you are responsible for communicating an idea, a policy, new procedures, or anything else, how do you ensure your message gets through?

How Do You Choose Your Communication Style?

Sometimes, it’s helpful to understand a little communication theory to help you make the right choices.

The Linear Model

There are two communication models that describe most communication. The linear model is one-way, non-interactive communication. Examples could include a speech, a television broadcast, or sending a memo.

In the linear model, the sender sends the message through some channel such as email, a distributed video, or an old-school printed memo, for example. Noise can affect the successful delivery of the message. Noise could include actual noise such as that in a factory, emotional noise such as political biases, or even a lengthy message that spans multiple pages resulting in TLDR among the receivers.

The transactional model is two-way and interactive. In the transactional model, both parties are both sender and receiver. It happens in real-time and, generally, they must both be present, even if it’s via technology such as Skype.

The Transactional Communication Model

The Transactional Model

Is one model or communication style better than the other? No, not at all. It’s a matter of choosing the best model under the circumstances and for the type of message. You must also realize that communication can move back and forth between the models. For example, a training session might start with a lecture (the linear model), followed by a question and answer session (the transactional model). It might then go back to a lecture (linear), and finish with a group discussion (transactional).

Examples of the transactional model include a face-to-face meeting, a telephone call, a Skype call, a chat session, interactive training, or a meeting in which all attendees participate by sharing ideas and comments.

As with the linear model, noise can affect the communication. Noise can include all of the previous examples. It might even be affected by one person feeling hungry or having gotten into an argument with a family member.

Choosing a Communication Style (Model)

  1. If you’re getting ready to roll out some new software, you might start with a memo detailing the change and the reason for it (linear) and follow it up with small group discussions in which you answer questions and concerns about the roll-out (transactional).
  2. It’s a matter of realizing that, as the sender, you’re responsible for the message getting through. You must then select the model most appropriate for accomplishing your objective.
  3. You must meet the other person (or people) where they are and use their preferred communication style, whether it’s text, chat, Zoom, email, or even an old-school paper letter. If you want your message to get through, choose the communication style and technology preferred by the receiver.

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