What is the difference between synchronous and asynchronous communication? And which is better?
Put simply, the difference between synchronous and asynchronous communication is that synchronous communication is where we communicate together at the same time, and asynchronous communication is where we communicate at different times. Now, all effective communication is actually at least a little bit asynchronous. Anyone who’s been in a situation where everyone is talking at the same time knows that when communication is literally synchronous, then very little actual communication takes place at all.
What we really mean by synchronous communication is a situation where messages are received at the same time that they are sent. So, face-to-face conversations, phone calls, and video chats are all examples of synchronous communication, while letters, voicemails, and emails are all examples of asynchronous communication.
The average office worker receives 121 emails every day. Of those emails, the average office worker typically ignores approximately 121 of them.
Many of the latest communication tools allow you to communicate both synchronously and asynchronously. A good example would be text messaging apps. Sometimes we use them for real-time, back-and-forth conversations, and other times we use them for sharing information that doesn’t require an immediate response, or maybe even any response at all.
The trouble with most text messaging apps is that sometimes it’s not clear whether we’re using them synchronously or asynchronously. It might seem synchronous at first – the person you’re chatting with is replying to your messages almost immediately, and you’re doing the same – but then you find yourself staring at your screen:
You realize it’s been 5 minutes already. Exactly what are they typing? It must be a whole paragraph… an essay… a novel!
But the epic message never comes. The app is telling you that your friend is typing because of a glitch. They’ve actually cooked dinner, eaten it, taken a shower, and gone to bed in the time you’ve been sitting there staring longingly at the word “typing”.
As for the question of whether synchronous or asynchronous communication is better, there’s no simple answer. It really depends on the situation, and on the personal preferences of the individuals involved. But if there’s one thing the business world has learned from COVID-19, it’s that we don’t always have to be in the same place at the same time to work and communicate effectively. In fact, many business leaders have discovered that asynchronous communication works much better than they ever expected.
In many cases, this discovery has been forced. The notorious instability and unreliability of video conferencing tools has forced managers to minimize their reliance on meetings, and instead switch to asynchronous messaging. And it turns out that, in general, team members are better able to both convey and absorb information when they can do so in their own time and at their own pace.
Most people in most situations actually want the best of both worlds. We want the synchronous communication that tells us we’ve been acknowledged and that we’re not screaming into the void, but we also want the asynchronous communication that tells us we’ve been heard in full, and that someone else is taking the necessary time to offer us a meaningful response.
Woice is a set of tools that offers a seamless blend between synchronous and asynchronous communication. It’s designed with the asynchronous communication habits of the 21st century world in mind, but also retains all of the advantages and benefits of synchronous communication. So you no longer have to keep switching back and forth between phone calls and emails – Woice offers it all in one package.