Home Speech-Language Pathology Communication in the 21st Century: Effective or Flawed?

Communication in the 21st Century: Effective or Flawed?

by Tina Babajanians
Shot of a businesswoman using technology at work

Shot of a businesswoman using technology at work

The other day, I sent a text message to a friend and it read, “Ok I’m done just sitting around if I can help out let me know.” After I sent the message, I re-read it and realized that I had sent the wrong message. What I meant to say was, “I’m done. Just sitting around. If I can help out, let me know.” There is a world of a difference between the first message and the second message. The first sounds like I’m frustrated with sitting around and I want to do something about it. The second one sounds like I just finished what I was doing and now I’m sitting around. If I can help out, I’m available. This text message is not the first and won’t be the last text that sends the wrong idea. Everyday, more and more people are using text messages, instant messages, social networking sites and e-mail to communicate with one another. Everyday, fewer and fewer people choose to meet in person or even pick up the phone.

When we have a face-to-face conversation with someone, we have a number of factors that help us get the message across. We have our eye contact, body language, vocal inflection and most importantly, the ability to correct a miscommunication immediately. Over the phone, conversations still have the vocal inflection and ability to correct a miscommunication. With a text message, you simply have typed words, often with poor grammar, and the way your message will be interpreted is at the mercy of the one receiving the message. At least we have emoticons that allow us to set the tone of the message.

So if face-to-face communication at its best is still challenging, what hope is left for us who choose to communicate via text messages, instant messages, email and social networking sites? How can we be sure that we are communicating effectively? It is important that we take effective communication into consideration when we send a text or instant message. We can start by simply proof reading our text messages to ensure that we are sending the clearest message possible. But more importantly, at some point, it would be wise to check in either over the phone or face-to-face with the person we are texting, to make sure that there wasn’t a communication breakdown. Use of emoticons helps as well. 😉


Tina Babajanians, M.S. CCC – SLP, is a speech language pathologist working in Los Angeles, California. She works in variety of settings including elementary schools, full-time and hospitals, per-diem. Her passion is voice therapy and she is working on launching a private practice that specializes in the treatment of voice and resonance disorders. You can visit her website and find her on Twitter @lavoicetherapy.

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Genie Ruddle March 3, 2011 - 3:13 pm

Mahalo nui, Tina! What an excellent blog! I just posted it quickly to my FB page as I was headed out the door to do some real face-to face! Can’t wait to return to read more! Aloha from the Big Island!

Tina March 4, 2011 - 1:16 am

Hey Genie! Thanks for the response! I am so glad you enjoyed the blog. Aloha and let’s work together to keep face-to-face communication a priority!

Grid Graphics March 3, 2011 - 5:00 pm

You bring up some interesting points Tina. I personally am a fan of face-to-face interactions. Body language, eye contact, and the sound of someone’s voice forces me to acknowledge the emotions that may be the result of that meeting. Whether I like it or not, I’m now challenged with intense feelings, emotions and possibly – dilemmas. Part of being human is being able to communicate with one another and partake in these daily confrontations. Isn’t it?

Tina March 4, 2011 - 1:23 am

Yes, it certainly is and how much better when it occurs face-to-face. For instance, as a business owner isn’t it better when you are able to address a clients concern or issue in person, where you can gage their emotions and reactions? Although e-mails or instant messages may be necessary in some cases, again it is best to touch base over the phone or in person to ensure the best outcome. Glad you got a chance to read and enjoy the article!

Kimberly Scanlon March 8, 2011 - 4:19 pm

Hi Tina,
I couldn’t agree more with you! Unfortunately, it appears that our youth LOVE to communicate via text messaging, ichats, and instant messenger. And, their slang language is trickling over to their written school work. As an SLP, I always try to use brief yet grammatically correct sentences when texting. I feel that if I model it, then maybe the receiver of my text messages will do the same.

Communication in the 21st Century: Effective or Flawed? March 12, 2011 - 9:57 pm

[…] View Original Article Online Published Online at http://www.ASHA.org on 2011 March 3 by Tina Babajanians […]

Elisa July 28, 2012 - 11:44 pm

Dear Tina,
I’m writting a essay on 21st century commincation and have come across your piece on effective or flawed and I am wanting to reference you 🙂
could you please email me the full artical and maybe the name of the book you have writen or is it just a blog? Any way would be great to hear back from you
your faithfully Elisa

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