Own your contribution to ineffective communication

Nonresponsiveness is my pet peeve, closely followed by the failure to use media/technology appropriately. Both behaviors create obstructions to effective communication. Why is it that we don’t take more care when we are trying to convey a message?

Own your contribution to ineffective communicationIt’s understandable that people may choose to ignore communications from unknown sources or simply delete them as spam. What isn’t clear to me is why it seems so difficult for people to take a couple of seconds to acknowledge the receipt of information from a trusted source. When is a nonresponse supposed to be interpreted as a “no” versus “I don’t know?” Even more curious, or at least a very striking coincidence, is that the same people who consistently ignore email requests or refuse to acknowledge receipt of information seem to expect an immediate response when they make a request from others.

People’s actions or inactions, and their choice of technology or media, create more issues than not.

This isn’t new. Years ago, voicemails went unreturned. Voicemails became emails, and they went unanswered. Now we can add texts to the list. We could also blame technology for some percentage of the communications that simply vanish. But more realistically, people’s actions or inactions, and their choice of technology or media, create more issues than not.

Everybody is busy. That’s as true as saying water is wet. To what degree each of us considers “too busy” is certainly relative. People seem to believe that reading something and then deleting it is all that is needed. More and more requests go unanswered, issues stay unresolved, and data is lost. The question remains, is being “too busy” a valid enough reason to be unresponsive or outright discourteous? I can’t count the number of emails I resend each week to ensure the recipient has what they needed. A number of times the response (when asked for the third time) is: “oh, yeah, thanks” or “I didn’t know the answer.” 

Own your contribution to ineffective communicationNot knowing is understandable, and a response stating so would be courteous. It ends the whole discussion, and each party can continue about their business. Not saying anything leads to redundant requests of “didya get it?” which only creates many more unnecessary emails. Job applicants experience the stone silence from recruiters more times than not when they have been eliminated from consideration or an opening has been frozen. (It’s become pretty widely accepted that a candidate should not expect a recruiter to return an email or call, because we all know they are much busier than any other business person and their time is much more valuable.)

Is being too busy also a good reason to use the handiest technology to convey a message versus the most effective method? Overall, with more and more social media and communication portals to manage, our communications seem more incomplete, less effective and more convoluted than when we had fewer options. The addition of social media has allowed us to share information quickly and broadly. That can be good, and that can also turn out very badly if the wrong messages are sent without thinking. (Remind you of anyone?) We all need to be aware of how we contribute to ineffective communication and confusion.

Selecting the most effective technology for communication is just as important as what you say. Too often I receive long-winded (yet important) business information via text or a Facebook message that would have been more appropriately sent via email. Conversely, when a call or text would have been the most immediate way to reach me with an urgent message, I’ve gotten emails with time-sensitive information that was viewed long after it was relevant.

A good practice is to think of the audience before choosing a method of communication. Call, email, tweet, text … whatever it is, consider what your audience is working on or involved with and how much time they might have available before you dial or hit send. Think of what you need and what will be the quickest way to get it from your audience, based on their needs. Allowing the reader the option to respond with something brief like “OK” or “thanks” is much more likely to elicit a response. Wading through lengthy emails leaves too much room for miscommunication.

A thoughtful communication is much more likely to get a personal or thoughtful response. If we can find some point between saying too much and saying nothing at all and use the most appropriate method of transmission, we would all waste less time on redundant or broken communications.

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