Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Look me in the eye when you say that.

A drive by email is one that comes at you out nowhere and kinda hits you in the side of the head. The tone is flat. The words are poorly chosen. Demanding. Not courteous. Careless. Insensitive.

I love email, texting and the conveniences of communicating through technology as much as the next person.  But way back in the day, when I was a communication officer under the watchful and eagle eye of my boss at the time, we would have gotten our butts kicked for communicating in this careless manner. In fact, we would have, and did, get called into the office where we were corrected.  We would leave her office with her trusty green pen markings all over the email.  I know I walked out of there a few times with a few lessons on how to communicate responsibly.

That was about 15 years ago.  When email was a newer thing in business, and we needed to have communication and usage policies so that people would know what was expected, and what would not be tolerated.

I would recommend for anyone hoping to have a larger career than they currently have to hire a communication coach.  Someone who can help you get your point across without offending the free world. Some of the smartest people and greatest leaders I know have done this, and it has worked to their credit. A CEO for example, that cannot communicate, can't inspire.  Nor can anyone hoping to get the co-operation of others.

I can't stress the importance of this enough.  A good communication coach can help you to see and hear yourself the way others see and hear you.  Good and bad.  But we all need that. Because everything we do communicates a message.

Here are some pet communication peeves that I have observed:

1.  Look me in the eye when you say that.  When someone is talking to you, where are your eyes. If you are talking to me, look at me. If your phone rings, ignore it. If you are the kind of person who is distracted, then place yourself in an area where you can't be distracted.

2.  Save your breath. When someone is talking to you, and you inhale before he or she is even finished talking, you have effectively stopped listening and are now listening to the words that you plan on saying next. First the inhalation, then the words come out. Whether the person has finished talking or not, you are now interrupting.

3.  Be nice. If you need someone to do something for you, the last thing you should do is hurl an email their way. All that does is demonstrate that you couldn't be bothered to actually spare a second of  your precious time to communicate in a respectful manner. What's worse, when you hurl email, you may affect the other person, with no accountability for your own actions. If you are treating your employees this way, you probably don't get much co-operation, or they are looking for jobs.

Communication faux pas like this are generally unintentional but the impacts are lasting.  As a rule of thumb, it is good to remember that everyone is having  "a day" and when we enter their day, even if it is by email, or text, we should be part of what makes it better. 

1 comment:

Windnsnow said...

I quit a job, essentially, over someone telling me how to write an e-mail.
I like your post and especially your pet peeves. I'm still wandering in the wilderness of e-pistleland wondering why there is commonplace netiquette for writing electronic communication, but precious little about how, when and with what to respond. I'm sure SPAMalot has plenty to do with all that ignoring of legitimate mail.
If she were online right now, what would Emily Post?