In a prior post I shared thoughts on the “Art of Miscommunication” which primarily focused on the misuse of text and email.
The purpose of this post is to share thoughts on how we can make best use of these very effective tools to avoid miscommunication, embarrassing situations and present ourselves as a courteous and professional contributor to society (a.k.a., position ourselves to EARN MORE $!).
As I prepared this post I happened to discuss the use of email vs. text with two of my sons (the 17 and 22-year olds), both of which had comments such as: “I don’t get it. Why does it matter? What is the difference between email and text? They are both typing into my phone. Everything is going the way of text. Email is obsolete, just like handwritten letters.”
Zowy! Are they trying to tell me that I’m getting old?
Let’s start with email
For now, at least, there is a definite need to leverage this important tool, differently than texting…Why? Because:
- It is a primary communications tool used to conduct business.
- It allows for complete, comprehensive and professional communications. Example, if you are trying to get an interview with a company, you’d send them your resume via email. And, your “cover letter” is the email message.
- You can save / file email messages by topic or category for future reference (next week, month or year).
- Your school, employer, bank, wishes to send you information (via email) and if you miss it, well, YOU LOSE (in the form of a missed assignment/bad grade, late for work – again/fired, extra fees, etc.).
As such, if you have an email address you’ve given to others (and you should) then you must (as a responsible person) check it – at least daily. If you don’t, the world is quite simply going to pass you by! That is, most of the people around you are operating in “real-time” mode. If they don’t hear back from you / your email in a timely manner they are going to assume you are:
- Not interested – This “may” be the case and therefore not responding isn’t a bad thing, unless you have a need to maintain an ongoing relationship (personal or professional) with this person.
- Not courteous – Common courtesy would suggest that, when you have an ongoing (personal or professional) relationship with someone, you would respond to acknowledge receipt of their message and set their expectations on any follow-through (or not) that you may be considering (if applicable).
- Incompetent – From a purely “social” perspective (use of email) this may not matter…Or, does it. That is, if/when people in our social circle observe us behaving in a certain way they may attribute that to how we work (professionally) as well. When we are part of an organization (business or otherwise) we are part of an eco-system that requires each member to be highly responsive to others. And, when we aren’t we break the chain of communications and/or momentum and are therefore viewed as incompetent…
Next, we MUST consider each email as a “standalone” piece of communication (dare I say, a memo or letter – minus the paper, of course). It ought to include:
- An introduction (who am I, if we haven’t met and why am I communicating with you)
- Any relevant background information necessary for the recipient(s) to understand the topic at hand
- A call to action. What am I asking the recipient(s) to do (just be aware, answer a question, confirm my understanding, commit to a deliverable, etc.)?
- A request that they acknowledge the message so we know they actually received it (if it is truly important).
Once we have the content drafted, we must make sure it is:
- Written in complete sentences – no texting-like shortcuts!
- Broken up into logical paragraphs. Leave a blank line between each paragraph to clearly indicate the “breaks.”
- Wrapped with the common “pleasantries” that you’d find in a letter:
- The greeting: “Hi Dave,” (if you know the person), or simply “Dave,” (if you don’t know the person)
- The closure. I typically add the following:
- “Please let me know if you have any questions, concerns or ideas.” If / when this is applicable.
- Some form of “Thanks!“, “Thanks much!” or “Thank you!“
- E-signature (I’ve setup my Gmail to “auto-magically” place in all my emails so I don’t have to type it each time):
- Phone number
Before hitting that send button, there is more…We MUST proofread the communication – multiple times.
The more important / intense the subject the more times we’ll want to review it. If it is a particularly “prickly” subject you are encouraged to save the email, walk-away (even sleep on it, if it can wait) and then pick it up again later for review. And, the most important point: When reviewing, do so from the perspective of the recipient. Ask yourself: Am I being clear? Am I assuming that they know something which isn’t being explicitly communicated here? Am I being courteous? Am I being confrontational (when I don’t need / mean to be)? How would I feel if I received this message? Why do I (the recipient) care? Etc.
Some might say: “Wow, that seems like an awful waste of time. Is it really worth it?”. Absolutely! Doing the above will DRAMATICALLY improve:
- The quality of your communication, better ensuring that the recipient actually “gets it.” The alternative: a bunch of back and forth emails (even drama, I HATE that) as each person is trying to figure out what the other is trying to communicate.
- Your image – Whether we like it (and believe it) or not, the lines are blurred between our personal and professional / working lives. Therefore, “if” you’d like to be viewed as a highly competent and professional contributor to society (which can also mean – earning more $) then – THIS IS IMPORTANT!
I’ve often been surprised by how much I could “tune” an email message I’ve drafted to make it much clearer, more palatable and even encouraging to the recipient to respond. The result: achieving the desired outcome in “most” cases. Such a small investment can pay big / HUGE dividends in time, relationship, career and money management.
Considering ALL of the above (including how we can “manage” email, outlined in a prior post) it seems to me there is STILL a definite need to effectively use this tool (in addition to / separate from texting). Maybe (probably?) that will change in the not-too-distant future. But, for now, it is an important tool that, with proper use, can provide many benefits and avoid the drawbacks related to missed or miscommunicated “information.”
In a subsequent post, I’ll cover another of my favorite communication tools: Texting!
DISCLAIMER: I share the above for those who wish to present themselves as highly competent, courteous, even professional contributors to society. If you don’t care about these objectives you’ve probably already stopped reading this post 🙂