A few weeks ago I overheard a young professional ask, “How in the world did business get done before email?” How, indeed.
I long for the days when communication was at the speed of sound, and not the speed of light. Electronic mail, which has been with us since 1993 (yes, a mere 15 years), has been both a blessing and a curse, but I think more of a curse, and here’s why:
Nobody is talking to one another anymore.
One big complaint I hear all the time from managers is that new professionals’ lack of conversation skills goes hand-in-hand with their propensity to communicate electronically. Even if the person to whom they are reaching out is only in the next cube, many prefer the insulation, and isolation, found in cyberspace.
But it’s not just members of Gen Y relying on email. Many people steer clear of difficult or uncomfortable situations by sending emails rather than making a phone call or strolling down the hall to face the music. Sometimes I think the “send” button should be renamed “sidestep.”
What are people avoiding? How about the work it takes to convey ideas succinctly and clearly, taking responsibility, being embarrassed by not having the answer, or feeling under confident and overwhelmed?
Good communication is at the root of all successful and productive professional relationships. Rethink sending an email message the next time you need to connect with a client. She’ll probably be surprised and pleased to hear your voice. Who knows what turns the conversation will take – there may be a new problem that requires your expertise (we call this “perfect timing,” something that rarely if ever takes place via email).
If you’ve got something difficult to deal with, such as a misunderstanding between you and a vendor, dealing with it by phone or in person can usually clear things up much quicker than back and forth messaging. You can use humor and inflection, ask questions and come up with mutually acceptable solutions far more easily when you’re talking instead of texting.
Consider these three questions before you send your next electronic communiqué:
- Would it be more productive, appropriate, or expedient to pick up the phone?
- Does sending this message keep me from confronting a problem or addressing an issue that will have to be dealt with sooner or later?
- Am I missing an opportunity to build rapport or strengthen a relationship?
If the answer is “yes” to any of the above, forget the sidestep button, and pick up the phone. Clients will feel appreciated, sticky situations will become less so, and you will stand out as a professional who recognizes the value of true communication.
© 2008 Neels & Company – All Rights Reserved
We are the leading provider of soft skills training to professional services firms, covering all areas of business communication.
Neels & Company – Strategic Business Communication
P. O. Box 623, Boston, MA 02117
800-975-7031 ext. 701
general inquiries: email@example.com