communication hierarchies

in several areas of my life right now, having a clear communication hierarchy has been great. and by communication hierarchy i basically mean a chain of command that determines how to communicate with someone based on the urgency of the message.

this all started because people kept (and still do) apologize to me for responding to my text messages days later. i couldn’t figure it out. to me, the whole point of texting is to allow asynchronous communication. and the value of asynchronous communication is that people can respond when it’s convenient.

this is in stark contrast to face-to-face communication. to respond to a comment days after someone said it to you in person would be rude. to do the same with a text, in my opinion, is not. that’s exactly how it’s supposed to work.

my personal, friends & family communication hierarchy looks like:

  1. face-to-face convo
  2. phone call
  3. text
  4. slack
  5. tweet
  6. email
  7. physical mail

my work hierarchy looks like:

  1. face-to-face
  2. slack
  3. email
  4. phone call

now, it’s important to note that context is key. at work, maybe email has a really high place in the hierarchy and needs to be responded to immediately (honestly, i think that’s pretty destructive, but i know it happens in some work cultures). but for your friends and family, maybe phone calls have higher ranks than email. 

and in some contexts, some tools aren’t or shouldn’t be used at all. for example, i try really hard to keep work conversation out of my text messages. when i don’t want to be working, i don’t want people to be able to or to have the expectation that they can text me to get me to respond to work matters. ew.

the point is, in whatever context you’re in, having a clear shared understanding of the ways to get in touch with someone based on urgency of request is important. and what do you do when an important message hasn’t been responded to via one method? move up the ladder and try another. and on and on until you get in touch.

but if you communicate with someone via top of the hierarchy tools for unimportant messages, you’ll create a sense of resistance and then itll be increasingly difficult over time to get in touch with them.