Communication is an everyday skill. We communicate with our family, friends, and coworkers constantly. And after the pandemic, I believe we have learned to value the importance of communication in greater capacities. Many professionals are working from home, so written communication is more pertinent in the workplace than ever before.
We send emails regularly throughout the day. Yet have you ever received an email that left you feeling confused or, even worse, angry? Our messages are not always as simple or straightforward as we intend them to be. In today’s fast-paced business environment, we rely on technology to convey important messages; however, how do we keep a positive tone in our written words?
Throughout my 23-year career, my experience has taught me that leaving ambiguity in communication has a tendency to create problems. I'm a very positive person by nature, but even I cringe at the sight of the email subject line, “Do you have time to talk?” I always assume something is wrong, or I caused a problem somehow. I know I'm not alone. The fact is, we tend to fill in any vague statements with negative thoughts. This can wreak havoc on your intended message and create confusion and stress for all parties involved. But there are positive ways to guard against these outcomes.
Here are four simple rules you can use to help strengthen your email communication in your office:
1. Start with purpose
Always begin your communication with a very clear purpose of what you are communicating and why. For example, try to be very clear on your subject line. Stating something like “A follow-up from the 401k update” can be very helpful. A clear purpose in communication will minimize questions on that topic and the intent or reasoning will be evident.
2. Be clear
Have you ever received an email entitled “Confused”? Most people’s first reaction is to think about what they have done wrong. If you must use an email, start in an affirmative tone and give context to the content. “The meeting on the 401k plan today was very informative, but I had some lingering questions on some of my option...”
3. Fill in the blanks
Communicate your thoughts thoroughly and completely. Don’t leave room for uncertainty. Instead of saying “The 401k meeting left me confused,” try being more specific. “When you explained options A and B for our investment plans, I understood the basic idea, but I wasn’t sure about the long-term difference between the two. Can you explain that to me more in-depth when you have the time?” It helps to anticipate any questions or concerns the person reading will have. The more details you can give, the more you will fill in possible gaps.
4. Review before sending
I review my emails at least two times before I send them. The first review is to make sure I have made my point. The second review is to look through the eyes of the person receiving it. How would I feel and/or respond to this email if I received it from someone else? Empathy and positivity will speak volumes to your coworkers.
I have made it a practice over the past five years to communicate by phone or video meetings as often as possible, especially when the topic is sensitive. In doing so, this practice has required me to stop hiding behind emails to avoid difficult conversations. The truth is, responding in-person often deescalates the situation and eliminates misunderstandings before they occur. Clear communication on the first attempt is always more efficient and shows you want to take the time to do things right.
Picking up the phone, setting up a time for a video meeting, or stopping at someone’s desk to communicate directly are great ways to foster positive connections. In my experience, good working relationships are the key to future success and efficiency in getting things done, and this will happen through daily positive and affirming conversations.
If you would like to talk more about this topic or have further questions on employment services, please reach out to the experts at Palmer Group. Our staff is always happy to take questions and help in any way we can.
By: Brian Berry, Director of Human Resources