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Communication Ain’t What it Used to be

My post title is just wrong and I am not just talking about the word “ain’t”. Communication has not changed at all.

New Tools

The tools we use for communication have changed since the 1940’s and I am sure everyone has noticed.  I remember last year when my daughter was living in France how nice it was to see her face on my computer screen and to hear her voice. It was all free to via Skype.

We can talk face-to-face when we are not even on the same continent. We can send video mail, voice mail, email, and snail mail.  We can communicate through instant chat, twitter, text messages, blogs with words, blogs with video, blogs with audio and share photos and just about everything else.

Is it about technology?

Communication is faster and easier but the communication it self isn’t about technology and we all know that.  Good communication is a two way kind of thing.  Just because communication is possible over the internet, by phone or text message doesn’t mean that it will happen.

What no Macintosh?

I have one friend who mostly uses a chat program only available on the Macintosh as his primary means of communication. I think he would be thrilled if I bought an Macintosh so we can talk again. It isn’t going to happen this year so we won’t be talking much.

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A couple of days ago I called one of my sellers.  I used a phone, a land line even.  I had not talked to him in weeks.  All of our communication is via email and I got it in my head that I should call him because all email seemed too impersonal.  The phone call irritated him.  It seems that with the type of job he has he prefers email because he is on the phone all day and he can read the email while he is doing something else.  I should have asked him how he prefers his communication from me instead of assuming that he wanted that personal touch of hearing my voice.

I have another client who doesn’t like email much at all. He likes it when I send text messages to his phone.  Again I didn’t take the time to ask him but figured it out when he started responding to my email with text messages. Now I use text only with him.

It is generational ?

It isn’t generational.  My 80 something parents are usually easier to reach by email or even via twitter than they are by phone. Sometimes we assume that a persons age determines how they prefer to receive communication.  I am also an example of that.  The people who are the closest to me know that the best way to get my attention is via text message. Text messaging is not known for being a boomer generation kind of thing.

I am Cool I have Video Mail

So maybe you went to a conference or class and you learned that video email is the latest thing. You were told that you need to use it because it is more personal.  True video mail is great but like with my client who did not appreciate the phone call some of your clients and contacts may not appreciate the video email.


Communication is not about technology. There is no universal form of communication that everyone wants. The most personal way of giving clients that personal touch isn’t through video, or by phone or even face-to-face it is by asking them how they want to communicate and accommodating their needs.

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To accommodate those needs keeping up with technology is important.  Being able to use video email is important too because some people really like it.

Written By

Full time REALTOR and licensed broker with Saint Paul Home Realty Realty in St. Paul, Minnesota. Author of, Columnist for Inman News and an avid photographer.



  1. Matthew Hardy

    January 7, 2009 at 10:59 am

    “asking them how they want to communicate and accommodating their needs.”

    Perfect. Salient and spot on.
    Asking then recording each person’s preference then looking there first is so easy… and so customer centric.

  2. Anne Rains

    January 7, 2009 at 2:31 pm

    Hi Teresa,

    You make some great points here.Skype is one of my favorite tools. I agree that you should take the time first to find out how your clients prefer to be communicated with and not just assume. I read a recent article in Active Rain about communicating better with the younger generation–the first-time home buyers. Here’s a link in case others would like to read it too:

    Have a great day,

    Anne Rains

  3. Brad Nix

    January 7, 2009 at 2:41 pm

    @tboard nails this one. Technology does not create relationships = people do. Technology is just a tool to facilitate.

  4. Anne Rains

    January 7, 2009 at 8:34 pm

    Just read a great article on Agent Genius about communication

  5. Ken Brand

    January 7, 2009 at 8:33 pm

    Exactly. It’s not the answer that’s import, it’s the questions before the answer that Rock The Cradle and Stir The Drink.

    Right ON!

  6. Ricardo Bueno

    January 8, 2009 at 2:27 am

    Sometimes I catch myself using Twitter DM’s in lieu of email. And at first it worked out well! But soon enough I came to find that not everyone is responsive that way 🙂

    Anyway, I’m with you on “asking them how they want to communicate and accommodating their needs.”

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