“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou
Effective business communications is an art form. Whether you are a professional communicator, like me, or an accountant or a plant manager, how you interact with employees, co-workers, colleagues and clients/customers is one of the most important keys to success. And with today’s ever-increasing digital world, non-verbal communication is almost non-existent leaving much of what we say up to interpretation, leading, so many times, to miscommunication.
It’s all in the delivery
We’ve heard this phrase a million times and we all know how true it is, yet somehow, we seem to keep missing the mark. Almost daily, if not more frequently, I receive or am copied on at least one email or text that has the ability to throw me off my game because of someone’s “tone” or because the message is vague and hard to understand. Yes, there is email etiquette and best practices for communication, but how you handle that negative email, text, phone call or comment on social media will make all the difference in world.
Here are some things I’ve learned along the way that help me in communicating with others:
- We are all human. We all have hopes, dreams and back stories. We’ve all felt happiness and we’ve all been hurt. Being empathetic to those around you will always give you an upper-hand in your communications. I’m willing to bet that nasty email you received had nothing to do with you. Someone is having a bad day, week or year and you happened to be on the receiving end. Not fair? Possibly…but we’ve all done it. Keep an open mind.
- Some people just don’t get it. Your hackles go up when you see their name in your inbox or their number comes up on your phone. They are direct, blunt, mean, cold…call it what you will. But they will forever not understand the nuances that go into communicating effectively. It’s how you handle it that will determine where the relationship goes from there. Do you let it ruin your day? Do you shoot back an equally tone-deaf email? Hopefully not. Choose your words carefully and engage them directly. Chances are you will find out they are not upset at all and had no ill intentions – in fact, are very nice people! But they simply don’t know how to express themselves.
- Digital communication breeds false bravado. We see it every day on Facebook, Twitter and in inter-personal communication. People hide behind the distance email can provide or the anonymity of social media. It’s easy to “speak your mind” when the person you’re addressing isn’t standing in front of you. So buck the trend. Pick up the phone, schedule a meeting or simply go talk to the sender. Bravado disappears when met face to face (notice I didn’t say confronted?) making it that much easier to tackle a difficult issue, situation or communication. And if you have to have a difficult conversation, take some time to evaluate whether email is the proper channel to use; most likely, it is not.
- Do unto others. How do you feel when you receive a negative email or voicemail? Remember that the next time you’re the one doing the sending. Are you watching your tone? Are you being specific vs. vague? Are you keeping it concise? Are you making it easy for the receiver to figure out what you need so they can prioritize their day? If not, start over.
Patience, empathy and treating others how you would like to be treated can go a long way in communication and relationships, in life and career.