Rowland Carlson

High bandwidth communication is less error prone

2020-07-31

When you're concerned about the clarity of an idea, use a high bandwidth form of communication.

The bandwidth of a form of communication is determined by the amount of information the other person receives.

Higher bandwidth forms give more chances for the other person to figure out the meaning of your idea.

Communication forms from low to high bandwidth:

Each step up on this list gives more cues to signal meaning.

With only text you can only interpret what you were given.

With audio, you can use tone and pacing to fill in gaps that weren't clear in the text.

Video gives body language and facial expressions.

In person, you can use physical distance, stance, and possibly touch to help understand.

That's why when someone says something at you that you don't understand, but you see them waving, you can infer that they were saying goodbye.

You can be clear in lower bandwidth forms of communication, but it takes work.

This is why a thoughtful email or a book can share life-changing ideas, but a text message can leave you anxious and confused.