Rowland Carlson

Synchronous and Asynchronous


When you choose a channel of communication, how do you want the other person to respond?

Communication can be synchronous or asynchronous. Each one reflects the amount of delay that you expect in the response.


Synchronous communication is a conversation. It is simultaneous, and favors intuitive, emotional responses. Synchronous is good for emergencies, exploring a range of topics, and getting to know people.


Have one channel set aside for synchronous communication. Set the expectation that when someone reaches you with that method, they have your immediate attention.


Asynchronous communication is a correspondence. It is delayed, it favor thoughtful, rational responses. Asynchronous is good for sharing information with a distributed team and allowing others to respond in their own time.


Have one channel set aside for asynchronous communication. Set the expectation that there will be a delay in your response. But you'll take the time to be respectful, clear, and thoughtful in your answer.


Expectations become unclear when a channel is used both synchronously and asynchronously.

Can you hold a conversation with text messages? What if their phone is off? What if they are driving?

If there is a number of quick responses followed by a sudden long pause, what do you expect happened?

Instant messaging, text messages, and, in some cultures, work email all straddle the line between instant and delayed communication. Because they are used in both ways, there can be a mismatch between how you use them and how someone else uses them.

If you think of work email as synchronous, and your coworker thinks of it as asynchronous, your email for something you need immediately might get a delayed response.

For clarity, decide whether each channel of communication should be synchronous or asynchronous. Pick one.

What are your expectations around the channels of communication you use?