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  • Writer's pictureJosh Wymore

1+1: Enrich the medium + Crucial Conversations

Updated: Dec 20, 2023

Hey there! Here’s one leadership idea and one resource I’ve found beneficial this week:

A man at the computer not coming to bed because "someone is wrong on the internet"

1 idea: Enrich the medium

A few years back, I nearly started a nuclear war over email. One of my peers was notorious for firing off snarky and inaccurate emails to large groups of people, and it drove me up a wall. One day, I had enough. Determined to set the record straight for all the clueless bystanders, I leapt to the defense of Truth by firing back an email that demolished her arguments point by point. This essay was an artisan blend of logic, passion, and self-righteousness that would surely put her in her place.

Five minutes after I pressed Send, my boss called. “STOP!” he commanded. “Pick up the phone and call her. This is not going to be resolved by firing emails back and forth.” He was right. I needed to enrich the medium.

Media Richness Theory argues that different mediums of communication have different “richness.” When communicating with someone face-to-face, I have all kinds of data available to me: their words, tone, body language, pace, etc. Face-to-face is the richest medium. In contrast, a text or email contains merely the words, making that medium much less “dense.” The theory suggests that when I hit a communication roadblock with someone in a “weak” medium (i.e., text or email), I can’t solve it there. Instead, I need to enrich the medium—turn an email into a phone call, or a phone call into a Zoom meeting, and so forth.

Thanks to my boss’s intervention, I picked up the phone and worked out the issue with my colleague. But even more importantly, I learned a lesson that helped me avoid many frustrating dust-ups down the road.


Your turn:

  • Who do you have the most ongoing conflict or misunderstandings with?

  • How much of that conflict occurs in weaker mediums of communication (i.e., text or email)?

  • What would you need to do differently to enrich the medium?

1 resource: Crucial Conversations

So let's say you decide to have a face-to-face conversation with your email adversary. How do you do it without the whole thing going sideways?

One invaluable resource to guide you through this process is Crucial Conversations. This book is roughly equivalent to 40 hours of training on interpersonal communications. And while that could be overwhelming for some readers, the immensely practical guidance it gives is so worthwhile.

You can find the book on Amazon or wherever books are sold.

Book cover of Crucial Conversations

Note: If you purchase a book via the link above, we may receive a small commission (at zero cost to you).


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