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You want my attention right now, this instant. I get it, I really do. But I wasn’t sitting here just waiting for you to send me a text, email or VideoChat connection request. No, I was already busy when you decided you needed my full focus. The same is true for you, I’m sure. You are constantly interrupted throughout your work day, making focus time and productivity a virtual impossibility.
In today’s world, instant gratification is the expectation, yet it doesn’t allow for optimal productivity, and it certainly can cause problems when done the wrong way. Your preferred form of communication isn’t always how the person you are communicating with prefers to receive your communication. A mouthful, I know! Said another way, it’s important to know how your colleagues and clients prefer to hear from you.
What if you could communicate in a way that makes your client or colleague open and receptive to you and your message? In Gary Chapman’s The Five Love Languages, we learn that every person has a preferred method for giving and receiving love. Expressed the right way, love flourishes. Expressed the wrong way, soon you’re single. The same is true in business: Communicate in a way that causes the recipient of your message to be receptive, and you increase the likelihood of success for the rest of the conversation … and the relationship.
There are now almost a dozen common methods of communication: phone, fax, email, mail, text, Skype, VideoChat or iChat. Everyone has their preference, including you.
In a nod to polite society, here are eight tips for polite and effective communication in today’s technological world, with effective actions to take to implement them:
- Address people correctly. Take the time to use names, titles, salutations and closings properly in emails, as well as letters. Effective action: Open an email the way you would a letter, with “Hello, Martha” or “Dear Jim,” and use a positive close, such as “Gratefully” or “Sincerely.”
- Identify yourself. Always use your full name, whether you’re live or on voicemail. Effective action: Say, “Hello, Leslie, it’s John Carter from Allied Moving Company.” Never assume someone will know you by just your first name.
- Check first. It’s not a good idea to launch into a conversation before checking in, or send a Skype or VideoChat request before you find out someone’s availability. Effective action: Saying “Hi, it’s Bill. Do you have a few minutes?” or “When do you have a few minutes to chat?” gives the person you want to talk to the ability to opt in when they are ready, and opt out if they are not. Trust me when I say that you’ll find a more receptive audience by taking the time to ask first.
- Ask, ask, ask. Find out each person’s preferred method of communication. You won’t know unless you ask, but once you know, you measurably increase the chances that people will respond to you, and sooner than if you use a method they don’t prefer. Effective action:Ask “When would you like to hear from me, and how?”
- Tell your truth. All of the above-mentioned methods of communicationare for your benefit, to make your life easier, and you more effective and efficient. Setting healthy boundaries does wonders for greater productivity, less stress and overall happiness. Let those around you know how you prefer to hear from them. Effective action: Add an email auto-responder indicating when you check your email. Change your voicemail to include the times you check that, and how best to communicate with you.
- Reply in a timely fashion. While instant gratification isn’t always possible, being gracious is always the best option. Making anyone wait for more than 24 hours is rude. Effective action: If you’re out of the office for any reason, or know you’ll take more than one business day to respond, communicate that through your email and voicemail. This will set a reasonable expectation for when you will be in touch.
- Be nice. People will break your rules and make you angry. It’s a given. Not always fun, but it keeps life interesting! Take the high road anyway.Effective action: Never say or put in writing something you wouldn’t want published on the front page of the New York Times.
- Listen. Most people are working as hard and fast as they can, so they can leave work as soon as possible. Effective action: Pay attention to the tempo and tenor of the person you’re talking to, so you can get in rapport with them. Don’t waste their time.
The world moves faster because technology allows for speed, but what remains true is our need for civility and common courtesy. Make sure you employ the Golden Rule, Do unto Others, in every communication you make.
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