To Speak or Not to Speak: The Art of Communicating
By: Ayla Khosroshahi, MA, ACC
Are we too quick? In this age of text, email, messengers, and various social media tools, are we swiping, liking, and responding too fast? We all tend to expect immediate responses and do not always take the time to process the information at hand. Our communication methods might need to integrate some moments of mindfulness to ensure we are not only processing the information but responding effectively. Faster is not always better.
Quick may mean that you are missing vital information in your response. It may mean that you are writing overly emotionally charged emails that are not appropriate for productive communication. Your emails may get excessively lengthy, and ramble on, because you haven’t taken the time to clearly identify what you actually want to say.
Because we ‘responded quickly,’ does that mean we don’t have to be mindful of what we are saying? How do we ensure we are accountable, effective and efficient? Is there a better way to communicate? Can we say it better? Can we hear it better? For the sake of speed, are our messages getting ‘lost in translation?’ How can we communicate in more professional, relevant, and timely ways? What tools can help our communication be more mindful, purposeful, and productive?
We are all busy, we are all communicating with a lot of people, and we are all trying to move our projects along as efficiently as possible — so instead of excusing bad behaviour, be a leader and optimize your communication style.
Try these three approaches:
- Stop and read. Sounds simple. But just like listening, we tend to forget to really do it. Don’t assume. Read word for word what the person has actually said. If you are unsure, don’t let your imagination run wild, ask for clarification. The key to effectively communicating starts with actually understanding what the person is saying. Ensure you are on the same page before you respond.
- Take a moment. Take a moment before you respond. For complicated or sensitive matters, set an amount of time that makes sense and step away. Draft a response and come back to it. If the matter is very emotionally charged for you, have someone you trust draft the response instead. This approach may give you a new perspective. If that is not possible have someone else at least review your drafted response. Space evokes clarity. Space makes room for new insights. Take a moment to think and rethink to ensure how you are responding is the best response.
- Review before send. Spell check. Ensure names (people + company) are spelled properly. Proofread. Ensure you are using proper grammar and spelling. Check your tone. Ensure you are polite and professional. These may seem like obvious things to do, but we have all sent or received emails where one or all of these points have not been respected. Remember that how you do anything is how you do everything. Take the time to empower your message as your best self.
Try asking yourself these three questions:
- What do I want to say in one sentence? Try to articulate what you are trying to say in one sentence. This exercise will help you focus on the most essential and relevant information to reduce excessive information and ramble. Don’t over communicate by email, we all know long emails don’t get read. Keep messages clear and concise. This also goes for making good use of subject lines. What is the purpose of my message? What do I need the recipient to do?
- Am I addressing all the relevant information? I don’t know how many emails we receive that don’t address the main concerns of the email. You know that email. Where you ask 5 direct questions and the response you get is just “yes”!? Go over the email and ensure you are answering all the questions. Numbers and bullet points help keep it clear and focused.
- How does my response add value? Ensure you are assisting the process and that what you are communicating is allowing everyone to move forward productively. Ask yourself these questions to ensure you are being accountable to your words and aware of your choices. How does my message aid the situation? Is my approach solution-focused? How I am I helping move us along?
Slowing down will save you more time in the long run. Slowing down ensures that you are responding in a professional, relevant and efficient way. Slowing down makes you more aware and accountable to how and what you are communicating. These tools are meant to make you more mindful, purposeful and productive with your communication style.
What is your art of communication? What are some ways you can do better by thinking better when it comes to your communication style? How can you be more professional, relevant and efficient in how you communicate? What helps you be more mindful, purposeful and productive in what you respond?
Try these tools and tell us how they work for you. What are your favourites tools? Let us know so we can all learn new ways to do better by thinking better!