Posted by Frank McGee on August 27, 2009
How you communicate can say as much about you as what you communicate.
For example, you may have noticed that people often fall into either one of two contact categories – e-mail or voicemail. You would do well to find out which one that new client or manager prefers as soon as possible. Your lines of communication will be that much more secure.
Yet when it comes to e-mail, voicemail, Instant Messaging and even Twitter, there are traps waiting for you. The way you use these vehicles on a day-to-day basis can be particularly revealing.
Here are some best practices – reminders for some, news for other – to keep in mind. Don’t worry – they’ve all been field tested:
- You say goodbye and I say hello – It’s a typical scenario: Someone sends you an Instant Message at exactly the wrong time. Sure, it’s nice to get an unexpected missive from a friend once in a while. But IM’s can arrive just when you don’t have time to engage with them. And the sender doesn’t know when to get off. If the IM conversation needs to go on for more than five or ten minutes, call. And if someone writes that they’re in the middle of something, let them get to it.
- In cyberspace, everyone can hear you scream – Everyone can tell how you really feel when you dash off that e-mail/IM/Tweet response to something (or someone) that really bugs you. Write the e-mail if you must, but save it as a draft and read it again later. Better yet, delete it and start anew. The ancillary to this is the e-mail written so quickly that it becomes the electronic variation of bad handwriting. No one will know what it means, so it wastes everyone’s time and says “I’m too busy to care.” Not a good message. Take your time, use spell check and review before you send.
- It’s all personal – On a subliminal level, hearing your voice say that you can’t come to the phone right now tells me that you will get back to me. Hearing your assistant or a “standard greeting” tell me you can’t come to the phone says something else entirely. Seriously, is it that hard to set up a voicemail greeting using your voice? Set it up once, keep it brief and you’ve demonstrated a personal touch that speaks well of you.
- Can we change the subject, please? – By now we’ve had e-mail long enough to know that in a long e-mail series, the topic will change. So either stop replying and start anew or change the subject line to reflect your current topic. Be specific in the subject line (e.g., “Statistics on sales for October”) rather than general (e.g., “Information requested”) to make it easier to scan and identify. And like the IM conversations mentioned above, if the series threatens to go on for more four rounds, pick up the phone.
- “Mr. Watson, come here, I want to see you” – Alexander Graham Bell had just spilled battery acid on himself when he made that first telephone call. Not all of your voicemails are quite so urgent. Don’t mark them as such unless it’s truly vital. When every voicemail is special, then no voicemail is special.
I could go on but now it’s your turn. What are your best practices?
Contributed by: Frank McGee
Writer, trainer, coach