Whether in business or in life, the importance of effective communication is paramount. We have all been on the receiving end of a text that came across the wrong way or an email that was peppered with 13 completely unnecessary exclamation points! These leave an impression and not always a favorable one. Make your words matter. Don’t leave people guessing and don’t inadvertently assign them the difficult task of attempting to decipher your true meaning. Clarity counts, no matter what the message or the medium you choose for its delivery.
Looking at the first example, what do we think of the author with the excessively exuberant use of exclamation points? The truth is we tend to take them a little less seriously and perhaps also question whether they are familiar with some of the basic rules of business communications. Exclamation points are seen as a juvenile expression of emotion and we might ascribe to the writer a personality that suggests they are prone to over-exaggeration. Similarly, the ALL CAPS WRITER also leaves us frowning, maybe even more so. Unless you’re my 75 year old uncle, a recent convert to the internet age, who seems to have taken his “caps lock” function literally, anyone receiving such a message gets it LOUD and CLEAR but not always in good humour. Use of capitals implies the sender is YELLING AT YOU TO MAKE A POINT! Don’t be that person. As the reader you are forming the impression that the writer is angry or short-tempered. Expressing oneself in ALL CAPS is neither businesslike, nor conducive to fostering an environment of teamwork and cooperation.
In our digital environment another common error in communications is the medium chosen to deliver your message. While it seems some days that we are in an “anything goes” world, there are still some generally accepted rules of etiquette and common business practices. Texting, for example, never falls into one of these categories. Should you be texting a co-worker about important financial documents? Texting a client to say you will be late with your deliverables? Absolutely not. Personal contact with an explanation in the latter example and common sense would suggest no in the former. The reality is however that common sense seems to be in short supply these days.
Emails are more problematic. Many businesses are now creating policies around the use of email and tracking and storing all of their employees electronically created data. That’s a good thing. When choosing email as your communications option, a guideline is to ask yourself a series of questions before you hit “send.” Should you forward to your boss, co-workers or clients that hilarious joke you saw on Facebook? Clearly no. Is the subject matter only business related and something that should be documented and tracked? If so, go ahead and send an email. But what about those times when you choose to send an email rather than pick up the phone or stop by someone’s office for an important or potentially difficult conversation? Are you making that choice because “it’s easier” for you? Take stock. What needs to be said? What is the best method for communicating that message? Who needs to hear it? When should it be heard and how should it be heard? Like any other business process, communications should follow a defined step by step model that anyone can refer to when in doubt. Cleary, the use of email is important, sometimes faster and more efficient and it provides a well documented trail if necessary in legal matters. Email only works however, when we also remember all the other pertinent facts: use proper sentence structure, review your use of grammar, don’t write in all caps and never use email as a means to avoid a conversation when talking would be more appropriate.
Finally, never underestimate the power of both tone and body language in communications. Telling someone to “Have a nice day” can turn from sarcasm to a pleasantry with just a slight shift in tone. How you stand, where you stand and what you are doing with your hands sends another message to your audience. Like that Seinfeld episode, “close-talkers” are intimidating. If you stand with your arms crossed you appear defensive and not willing to listen. Hands on your hips suggest an angry tone and can be construed as confrontational. If you talk with your hands you are perceived as expressive and more open. Standing over someone who is sitting is a position of power and you will gain far more trust and cooperation if you match your level to that of the person you are addressing.
Make the clarity of your communications paramount. We have all, at some point in our lives, opened our mouth, inserted a foot and hoped the ground would rise up and swallow us. Communication takes time and practice to get it right. Take five. Make your communications matter. After all, if it’s worth saying, it’s worth saying right, the first time, every time.
As Owner and Principal partner of “Writing Right For You” Sheralyn is a Communications Strategist – working together with entrepreneurs to maximize profit through effective use of the written word. Looking for web content that works, blog articles that engage or communications strategies that help you get noticed? Contact Sheralyn today. Sheralyn is also the mother of two children now entering the “terrible and terrific teens” and spends her free time volunteering for several non-profit organizations.
Sheralyn Roman B.A., B.Ed.
Writing Right For You
Communications Strategies that help you GET TO THE POINT!
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