It seems like we’re communicating more than ever. Email, text, messaging apps, social media; technology seems to connect us like never before. But technology only provides a means to communicate. It doesn’t guarantee good communication. That’s up to the users. Up to us.
Put another way, technology can make it easier to communicate, but it can’t communicate for us. How we use the technology determines how well or poorly we communicate. With this in mind, we’ve put together a few tips to help you harness technology and communicate effectively, whether you’re a shipping dispatcher or a CEO.
Take Time to Think
Fuzzy thinking leads to fuzzy communication. Before you communicate, take a moment to consider not what you want to say, but what you want to happen. Doing this before you call, email, text or even leave a Post-it note will help ensure that you say what needs to be said to the person or people who need to hear it when they need to hear it, via the best channel.
Do you need an associate to help you respond to a sensitive matter? Then a phone call may be the best way to communicate. Want to build support for an initiative? Then an email blast or social media may be the way to go. The time you take to consider the outcome you hope to achieve with your communication will help you ensure that it’s effective.
Keep it Simple
People are flooded with messages nowadays, with media, email, text and other communications. A study in 2010 found that, after meeting all other obligations, the average adult has only 12 minutes of discretionary time to read each day. Sure, your communication may fall into the “all other obligations” category. But you will do your associates and yourself a great service if you ensure that you only communicate when necessary and do so in a concise manner.
A good guideline is to restrict yourself to no more than two or three items in an one communication. If you’re composing an email, and get to more than three paragraphs, read over it and make sure you’re sticking to the key subject. People will thank you for it, and you will be more successful in getting the point across … and achieving your desired outcome.
Consider Low-Tech Options
In the spirit of keeping it simple, here’s the point of this guideline: Pick up the phone and call. People tend to use email to insulate themselves from obligation or put off having to make decisions or act. A quick call says, “Let’s get this done, now.” It also says, “You and our business are important and call for real-time communication.
On the other end of the spectrum, remember that a handwritten, personal note makes a big impression in this age of widespread electronic communication.
Beware of Emotion
Remember that words are like bullets; once you let them go, you can’t call them back. While it may make you feel better to “put them into place” with righteous indignation, fiery words can damage relationships and, thus, your business.
If you start composing an email in the heat of the moment and find yourself using all capitals, punctuating multiple sentences with exclamation marks, underlining and bolding words, and filling up page after page with your diatribe, stop. Copy it into a word document, close it, and come back later to finish it. You will almost certainly tone it down when you have time to cool off, possibly avoiding costly ill will.
Follow these basic guidelines to communicate clearly and skillfully in your business dealings, and you’ll find it easier to achieve your disired business outcomes.