Asynchronous vs. Real Time Communication

Asynchronous = “Next Best Thing to Being There” — or Is It Better?

asynchronous communication

real-time vs. asynchronous communication

The Center for Academic Technology of the University of the District of Columbia provided the above image in a blog post, Synchronous and Asynchronous Communication. They outline advantages and disadvantages of either. Below are my thoughts about the pros and cons.

Advantages of Real Time Communication

The big advantage of a phone call versus a letter (remember postal letters?) is that the conversation is two-directional in brief components with immediate response. The communication goes back and forth like a Ping Pong game — or at least it SHOULD. (You know how boring a verbose monologue is, especially when you are the on the receiving end 😉 Twitter has introduced a hybrid with near real-time brief micro-messages, which could be exchanged either in real-time — or not. Believe it or not, (patient) people used to play chess by post cards — no kidding!

Non-Verbal Communication

As I pointed out in a previous post,

Social Psychologists generally subscribe to the theory that “93% of interpersonal communication is non-verbal, and only 7 % is content.” Almost every facet of our personality is revealed through our appearance, our body language, our gestures, our facial expressions, our overall demeanor, and our posture and movements.  Interpersonal perception and “chemistry” are mostly unconscious and based on subtle natural cues, like tone and “warmth” of voice, a real handshake, pupil dilation, and even biological hormonal fragrances called pheramones. No matter how hard the perfume manufacturers try, it is hard to fake interpersonal chemistry. We unconsciously form a persistent “first impression” during the first few minutes of meeting a new person.

These nonverbal factors present a big challenge for those of us who want to use social media to communicate. Not to mention the phenomenon of computers “talking” to each other with automated “social” media! The question is, “How can we send and receive nonverbal messages in a verbal environment?” Videos and webinars may help.

Sherry Turkle wrote an interesting article (4/21/12) in the New York Times, called The Flight From Conversation. She writes:

WE live in a technological universe in which we are always communicating. And yet we have sacrificed conversation for mere connection. At home, families sit together, texting and reading e-mail. At work executives text during board meetings. 

Asynchronous Communication Has Advantages As Well

In my opinion the biggest advantage is the avoidance of interruptions in the middle of a project or another call. A hybrid solution would be to use asynchronous communication, such as email or voice mail, to arrange an appointment for a live conversation in real time — maybe even in person.

Terry Jones (@terrycjones) wrote an interesting article on 9/26/10 on O’Reilly Radar called, Dancing out of time: Thoughts on asynchronous communication. He discusses why asynchronous communication is far more scalable and thus more powerful. He says (actually writes 😉

It’s difficult to overstate the impact of technology on our ability to communicate asynchronously. Modern digital systems provide us with virtually unlimited amounts of cheap storage, along with the means to efficiently deposit/retrieve information into/from this storage. Consider Slideshare as an example. You can post presentation slides and have them read asynchronously by thousands or even millions, rather than just seen by the dozens who might attend a presentation in person.

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6 thoughts on “Asynchronous vs. Real Time Communication

  1. You asked how we can view non-verbal messages through asynchornous communication such as email. There is an incredible power in words. You can soften the impact of a message by adding a qualifier such as, “Maybe I’m wrong but…” or you can just go for the jugular by saying something directly such as, “You are an inconsiderate person and I don’t like it.”

    In fact, I find that emails can feel even more emotionally intense than a direct verbal, back and forth, conversation. We tend to lose the nuances and all we have are the words. If we like the words, great; if not, they can feel as if a tornado just hit us. CAPITAL LETTERS CAN ALSO APPEAR THREATENING.

    We live in an interesting age and technology is not going away any time soon.
    Dr. Erica Goodstone recently posted..With My Teacher, Ilana Rubenfeld, in Ashland OregonMy Profile

  2. Buddy,

    I guess I have been over-using the asynchronous method of communication… hiding behind my computer. It’s safe, I think I’m getting to a lot more people than having a one on one conversation.

    Recently, like this week, I got it in my head to pick up the phone and actually talk to some people in my target niche. I had no more agenda than to introduce myself, break the silence and get to know another human being.

    It was a magical week. I shared, was shared to and felt encouraged about what I had to offer and the possibility of making the right connections. I plan to continue to creep out from behind my computer and interact as humans have done so for ages and ages.

    Thanks for the comparison.

    In Clarity and Focus,

    Rick Lelchuk recently posted..What is a Great Coach?My Profile

    • Rick,

      I have now read your comment for the third time, and I like it better each time! You make a good point that humans like to connect for real, preferably in person.

  3. It seems that asynchronous has a lot of advantages in some ways, especially with the example given of using a storage facility to retrieve a stored communication for viewing at a different time. That said, i also think there is something about a back and forth sort of conversation in near real time that is of more import than watching a recording.

    A very interesting article, Buddy. Thank you for sharing it with us.
    Michael recently posted..Stick With Me HereMy Profile

  4. Hi Buddy,

    It has been a while! I am in the process of getting out of the house and visiting potential clients after some 6 years as a hermit.

    I find it really easy to get appointments this way! In fact, just about everyone I talk to wants to hear more about my services. I used to get lots of email messages, but these days they are definitely dwindling and just about everyone on Facebook or Twitter seems to be trying to sell or give me something they think everyone should ahve.

    Not sure if I am right, but I detect a need for human contact re-emerging!
    John Gaydon recently posted..Affiliate Revolution : The Most Effective Tool To Use For Affiliate MarketingMy Profile

  5. John,

    I distinctly remember connecting with you in real time awhile ago, and that is the reason I still consider you a real friend. I think we need to meet in person, either face-to-face or on the phone or skype or even chat, before we become real friends.

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