One of the challenges that we face living in a world of ever increasing information and “noise” is missing the mark when we try to communicate. You can craft a direct, focused, concise email and still get a reply that shows you the reader has not, in fact, actually read the whole email. You can use careful reader access techniques like lists and tables to highlight important information, and still you get a response that shows the person has not bothered to even glance at what you have provided.
So what do you do?
The Man in The Mirror
I’m reminded of the lyrics to the Michael Jackson song, Man in the Mirror:
“I’m Starting With The Man In The Mirror
I’m Asking Him To Change His Ways
And No Message Could Have Been Any Clearer
If You Wanna Make The World A Better Place….”
Perhaps what we need to do when communicating is look first at our own listening and reading skills. Do you pay careful attention to your emails, or do you skim through them? When someone is talking to you, are you really listening to them, or are you running through your To Do list in your head? If someone gives you instructions, are you already thinking about how you could do it better? Don’t be the game show contestant who gives the wrong answer because they’ve interrupted the host mid-question.
Listen carefully, read carefully, and check if you don’t understand. Ask questions, request clarification, and follow up to confirm that what you heard or read was correct. If you have a lot of emails to get through, prioritise. Read the most important ones first, and before you respond, double check that you’ve read the whole thread and that you aren’t asking unnecessary questions. If you spend a few minutes reading and perhaps doing a bit of research, you show the reader that you care, that you can pay attention to detail, and that you want a mutually beneficial, positive result.
I’m convinced that the more we can practice our own listening and reading skills, the more we can improve our communication, and therefore command more thoughtful and careful responses from our audiences.
So… start with the (wo)man in the mirror, or rather, on the keyboard and monitor…