Everyday Communication

George Bernard Shaw wrote: “The problem with communication … is the illusion that it has been accomplished.”

This quote could not be more true, and is further compounded by the ever increasing introduction of modern technologies, the send and forget type emails, Skype, MSN Messenger, facebook, SMS, etc!

For those of us who receive up to 50+ emails a day, how many of us read them in detail and really try to understand what they are trying to say? Probably few. How many of us are prepared to go back to the sender and clarify some of the ‘grey’ areas with questions? Definitely few.

Is email the best way to get your message across? That is a question that we should constantly ask ourselves. Other channels of communication can be far more effective. It’s too easy to either ignore or not give emails the attention they deserve. This is not the case when you are communicating face to face or over the phone. 

One dictionary definition of communication is “the imparting or interchange of thoughts, opinions, or information by speech, writing, or signs”. Sounds pretty simple, doesn’t it? Well, if you think about it, all business communication should have a purpose, whether it’s just ‘FYI’ (for your information), i.e. reading to learn about something, or encouraging a response or action on something. The challenge we are faced with everyday is keeping messages simple enough to ensure we get them across clearly, and more importantly, get the response we are looking for as a result. Dr. Robert Cialdini, the famous author of “Influence – the Psychology of Persuasion”, wrote: “Our best evidence of what people truly feel and believe comes less from their words than from their deeds.”

So how do we achieve the response we want? This is where influencing comes into play, and starts with planning the outcome. Try asking yourself what’s the purpose of this communication? What information is critical and what’s less important, how will I structure it for maximum effect? What’s the best way to communicate it? It all starts with getting the message right! 

The second step is to understand your constituents or recipients. What is their attitude towards the subject? Working through both of these factors weighs heavily on the successful outcome of your communication. If you don’t have a good relationship with the receiver, they are less likely to give your communication the attention it deserves.

The third part of the process is in analysing the response. It is critical that time is spent asking if the communication was effective? Was it really understood? Are they buying into the idea? Does their response appear sceptical or confused?

A recent report estimated that over seven trillion emails were sent worldwide last year! The average office worker now gets between 60-200 messages a day. While no one denies the obvious productivity gains we’ve realised from the efficiencies of email communication, many people find themselves drowning in all these messages. 

Six general email dos and don’ts:

1. Do understand that good quality subject and header lines are important as these will be the search headings that you’ll be using later to find specific emails in your archive folders.

2. Do make sure you are clear and concise in the content of your message. Cover what it is you want to happen, i.e. the action/response, in the very first line. For example, right at the top of the email, put your ‘action’, what you expect your recipient to do. And then structure the background of your message around it. Recipients will take note that they need to do something and then spend more time making sure that they understand the context of the message.

3. Do realise that your message can be forwarded to anyone and it says something about you. Make sure you re-read it and are comfortable with how it reflects on you. Be careful when sending confidential information by email as again it can be so easily forwarded. If you have to, make sure you word your message in as factual and balanced way as possible.

4. Don’t respond to an email in anger… Practise the 24-hour rule when you’re upset. By the next day, you might save yourself from dramatic over reaction. Remember, it’s the right response that you are looking, not revenge!

5. Don’t put a hyperlink to additional information at the top or even in the middle of a mail. Put it at the end. Why? Well, it’s human nature to click on it as you read. Your reader may miss all the important text that comes after the link.

6. Don’t ‘cc’ the world – Ask yourself who really needs this information? It’s too easy to copy everyone, even if they don’t really need it. Don’t expect a response from someone who was cc’d.

At the end of the day, the backbone of successful communication lies even deeper. Great communication is about a high level of transparency, trust and honesty. With these ‘environmental’ values in place, communication and teamwork can really flourish.

“Nothing beats old fashion face to face, eyeball to ball communication.” – Leslie Choudhury 

No comments:

Post a Comment