With so many communication choices in today’s tech-savvy environment, interaction now comes with rules of engagement that mirror our high-speed surroundings.
But what’s the communication playbook in a world of email, voicemail and text messaging?
Words and abbreviations mean one thing in a text or tweet that would never be acceptable in a business letter, email or client conversation. In times past, the great communicators employed verbal dexterity that appropriately suited their audiences.
Today, it’s a little trickier.
Our daily environment is conducive to constant messaging. In order to communicate effectively, we have to demonstrate agility and flexibility while simultaneously employing active listening as we type on numerous keyboards. In fact, our keyboard proficiency has in many instances replaced speech cadence and its longtime partner – body language. Is it any wonder we have trouble remembering what we have conveyed to whom.
“Developing excellent communication skills is absolutely essential to effective leadership. The leader must be able to share knowledge and ideas to transmit a sense of urgency and enthusiasm to others. If a leader can’t get a message across clearly and motivate others to act on it, then having a message doesn’t even matter.”
-Gilbert Amelio, President and CEO of National Semiconductor Corporation
Go on, express yourself
Our workplace grows more diverse by the day. It’s no wonder that our ability to relate on professional and social levels with our peers and associates is evolving in ways that defy all prior conventions. Cultural mores infiltrate our business world in the form of language barriers, work experience, cultural differences and everyday workplace vernacular. As managers, we need to recognize that silence does not always mean acceptance or understanding.
Equally as important is fostering an environment where differences are not only accepted but celebrated. The validation of differences benefits the entire team and promotes confidence in everyone to step up and take a chance.
The communication playbook
When considering your communication avenues, each come with their own set of rules. But, some universal guidelines apply. Like, communicate early and often, and don’t let emotions fill your messages.
Here are some guiding principles to help ease misunderstandings and encourage powerful and effective messaging when emailing:
- Be direct. Frame electronic communications, like emails, with either yes or no questions supported by bullets. This will force recipients to focus on your key points and creates constructive communication that acts as a roadmap to a solution. By doing this, you’ll also reduce the likelihood of an email marathon.
- When in doubt, dial. When emails begin to pile up and you find yourself uttering…What? that is your cue to pick up the phone, gain clarification and bring about resolution.
- Email tools. Emails bypass intonation and basic physical body language, like eye contact, which is why so many people today resort to typed correspondence rather than verbally discussing a matter. It’s easy to be misread in an email, especially when using italics, bolding or underlining. These are great, but powerful tools, so be sure to use them only when emphasizing a fact, or key information like timeframes.
- Proofing makes perfect. Make sure you have your critical basics covered before you send that email: Is your spell check turned on? Are you absolutely certain you want all those names in the “to” box to receive your message? Have you stepped back and read your message to make sure it makes sense to someone other than just you?
- Send responsibly. Think about the desired outcome before you hit the send button. Does your message convey all that you want it to?
“Thank you for calling…” Avoiding voicemail mishaps
- Strong introductions matter. A good voicemail will identify you, your company and will include a good call back number to reach you. It should also include the purpose of your call.
- Don’t mumble. Leave out all of the “umms,” “ahhs” and “you knows” when recording a voicemail.
- Your point? Avoid sounding like a random stream of consciousness. Make your message concise and deliberate.
In so many ways, the Golden Rule applies to the myriad of communication options that await us on a daily basis. Just like you don’t have the second chance to make a first impression, once you type it, utter it, tweet it or send it…you cannot take it back.
So much of our productivity and success is rooted in our ability to communicate. At a time when our choices for connecting are so wonderfully driven by technology, there are so many moments for potential misinterpretation.
Our most challenging dilemma, by far, is in knowing how to say what, in which format and for what audience. Choose wisely.