The Communication Cycle

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

George Bernard Shaw

From 2002 to 2013 I worked as an Emergency Services Dispatcher (fancy title for 911 Dispatcher) in a busy 911 center in upstate New York.  

As part of the training we went through we were taught the ‘communications cycle’ that went something like this:


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The sender has a message that they send via a medium to a receiver.  That’s one-way communication or asynchronous communication.  That’s actually a communication thread, not a cycle.  

For this to be a cycle, once the receiver has the message, they then send feedback and the cycle goes in reverse.  This is synchronous communication, or in layman’s terms- a conversation.

When I worked in emergency communications it was vital that we communicated clearly, we used the correct medium and we received feedback to know if true communication was happening.

In that line of work, lives are on the line and people can be hurt or killed if communication isn’t happening.


Modern Communication

In today’s modern business world the messages you communicate may not be life or death, but they are vital to connecting and building trust with your clients and prospects.  You have more mediums of communication available to you than ever before.  Phone, video, text, email, and traditional mails are the direct communication mediums that you have available to you and maybe some other more specific mediums that are industry-specific.

Each of these mediums offer their own unique benefits and challenges:

  1. Phone- synchronous communication for message clarity is a great benefit. You can judge tone of voice.  One challenge is that many of your clients or prospects might not be answering their phones unless they recognize your number.
  2. Video- synchronous communication which allows you to connect with your client or prospect in a more meaningful way. You can judge body language and tone of voice.  If you’re utilizing a video message that is asynchronous (video prospecting for example) you may run into the challenge of email filters blocking video links or clients/prospects unwilling to click on video links.  Also, another challenge with video is the technology- we’ve used it so much in the past two years that it may seem overused to some, and I still find the occasional person that just can’t seem to use the various technologies.
  3. Text Messaging (SMS, Social Media DM)- synchronous communication (provided the receiver responds to your message) that is convenient for relaying short messages to convey information.  Provided both parties in the communication cycle are active, this is great for ease of communication.
  4. The challenges are many.  There’s no way to judge tone of voice or meaning behind the text.  “Fine” can mean ‘Hey that’s great, thanks’ or can mean ‘Yeah, whatever, you’re going to do what you want’ said in a sarcastic tone (see? Even here I have to put more meaning so you understand what I mean 😁).  You should, in my opinion, only use text for the passing of information, NOT to provide further information on a problem or complex issue.
  5. Email- asynchronous communication that is convenient for relaying messages that might be more complex than a simple text message.  Email is good in that the message can be saved, printed, filed and kept for further reference.  Challenges? EVERYONE uses email and receives multiple emails each day.  This increases the chance that your message is lost among the multiple messages your receiver is inundated with each day.  Also, many of these messages they receive are junk mail, marketing messages and/or messages they just don’t care about and your message can get confused with them.
  6. Traditional mail- asynchronous communication that offers a great way to stand out, because this is rarely used today in personal ways.  If you send a handwritten message in a card, your customer and/or prospect will notice.  The challenge is that it takes time (what? I have to wait 2 DAYS for my message to be delivered?) and there’s no delivery confirmation.  Also, you need the mailing address for the person and if they work from home they might not be open to providing that.  

The Three Legged Stool

So what is more important?  The medium we choose, the message we send, or the intended recipient of the message?  The answer is “YES”!  In other words, they are all equally important- like the three legs of a tripod, all three are needed for the communication cycle to stand.

As we mentioned above, each medium has their own advantages and disadvantages.  Also, you have to know which medium has the best chance to be received by the receiver.

The message is equally important.  What are you trying to communicate?  Is the message clear and understandable?  Have you conveyed value and are you building trust with the message or are you bringing confusion?

When communication fades, trust diminishes

Craig Groeschel

Then there is the receiver of the message.  Do you know them? At what level?  My guess if your message and medium will be different for someone you know well (like a friend who is also a client or a well-established client) as opposed to a prospect or new client.  As we mentioned above, what is their preferred communication medium?  I used to have a client that only wanted to talk on the phone.  He told me not to email him unless I was sending certain information and he never used social platforms or text.  I know other clients that only want email. 

Just as all selling is social, all communication is social, too.  You have to realize that all of these forms of communication, like the different sales tactics and strategies, offer you various ways to reach your intended audience.  

Next week, I’m going to unpack what we say and why we say it. Where our messaging comes from and why it’s important to approach our messaging with the heart of a servant who is looking to help, add value and make connection!

Communication is only effective when we communicate in a way that is meaningful to the recipient

Rich Simmonds


Need help with your communication? I’d be happy to offer a 30-minute complimentary coaching session, just click HERE to schedule!

Originally published on Bill McCormick’s LinkedIn

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