How many times have you sent an email believing you had asked a simple question and received a response that had nothing to do with your intended request? Or stated an opinion that caused a backlash worthy of starting World War III? Missed communications can turn into missed opportunities. If you have felt unheard or misunderstood and are still licking your wounds, let’s take a look at some things to consider about your contribution to any kind of miscommunication.
Consider the following elements for any form of communication:
- Are you using the correct email address or correct phone number to communicate this message?
People often have multiple email addresses in addition to several home, work, and mobile numbers. Don’t assume that the first one that pops up on your electronic device is accurate. Ask the recipient if you are unsure which is preferred for each kind of communication.
- Are you using the right medium?
Text, email, telephone or snail mail? We have many choices and all have their advantages. Think before you resort to what is convenient for you and consider what will be the most efficient and clear means for the recipient to read/hear and respond.
- Did you send a clear, concise and complete thought?
It’s important to finish a sentence, but don’t write a book. Most people use email to quickly
convey information. It’s not always possible for someone to take the time to review a 500-word email. Give them advance warning of your intent/ask when they might be able to review and respond to detailed information. It is not uncommon for key points of a very long message to get lost or overlooked, especially when someone is reading it on a hand-held electronic device.
- Did you ask specific questions or make requests that are easy to answer?
Avoid unnecessary/sidebar chatter that may distract your audience from capturing the intent of your message. Most people have so much on their minds that it is easy to get distracted or simply become unable to stick with the line of conversation when it is about something that doesn’t interest them. Watch for telling body language and listen for responses that may indicate the person is no longer with you. If you are sending an email, make sure you state
precisely what you need and by when, or you will likely end up having unmet expectations.
- Have you made assumptions that could cause conflict or misinterpretation of your message?
Think before hitting send or verbally firing back to a voicemail. Reread any prior communications before you jump into a tirade or listen closely to any messages. If your communication is a reaction to an earlier communication from the same person, make sure you have not misinterpreted their intent. Check in with them and ask if they “intended to say…?”
- Are you using an email format that makes it easy for the receiver to read?
Running many thoughts together makes it difficult to read, prioritize and respond. Many times points can be missed. Make sure to separate subjects with space or numbers so the reader can quickly spot the differences.
Here are some simple guidelines for ensuring your communications are effective:
- Acknowledge emails/calls/texts so the sender is aware you received it.
- Emails are often deleted or ignored when received on mobile devices. Plan time to look at a full-size screen where you can use a filing system that allows you to save and search.
- Use texts for brief messages. Sending lengthy messages by text can waste time spent correcting errors made by autotype or misinterpreted abbreviations.
- Use email for important messages that may need to be used as documentation or for record keeping. Emails can be forwarded quickly, they readily allow for inserts or additions, and they can be more efficiently organized, stored and retrieved when needed.
- In an emergency, it is important to reach the party ASAP. The most direct medium would be a phone call. Even a text can be easily overlooked.
- Use courtesy! Remember to say “please” and “thank you.”
We’ve covered only a small piece of the communication process. Stay tuned for “Part II” next month.