Communicating well has never been easy, but it is vital!
In the days of envelopes and stamps communicating was slow and difficult. At least that’s the way it was for me. My handwriting is slow and not very legible. When I see the handwriting of my sons I realise it’s genetic! There were other contributing factors, but the net result was that I disliked sitting down to write, and so I often put it off. Thankfully Marti was good at writing and didn’t procrastinate.
Then the Lord had pity on me and brought Terry, so I could dictate as she did shorthand (as we are now).
Technology can help.
When the first personal computers appeared I was very happy and managed to purchase an amazing twin floppy disc laptop that weighed only 13 lbs. It was both a very helpful tool and, I must admit, something of a status symbol. I thought it said “Look, I’m up-to-date with the latest technology”. More than once I thanked my Dad for urging me to take a touch-typing course in high school.
People notice when you communicate reliably
Soon I had a reputation for being someone who answers emails and other forms of communication. I can’t possibly count the number of times someone has thanked me for answering them. Sometimes those conversations imply that I was well down the list of people they wanted to hear from, but I replied whereas others didn’t. These recurring conversations illustrate how much timely and appropriate communications help.
So here are a few tips for communicating well.
– You have to manage your incoming messages. That starts by deciding what platforms you will engage with and which ones you should avoid. I counted my platforms the other day and realised that I had twelve (emails, texts, whatsapp, telegram, signal etc). Think about it as strategically as you can and decide how you will approach managing your incoming messages.
– Discipline: I am well aware that that word is easier for some than others, but the task of keeping messages to a manageable level is mostly a matter of discipline. This may mean going through them and deciding which ones you are not obliged to answer, and which ones you feel are lower priority so you won’t reply. The crucial thing is to keep vital messages from getting lost in a huge number of incoming messages. This goal of a manageable Inbox means you have to go through all of your incoming information and delete the things that are not a high priority such as news flashes, subscription appeals and so on.
– Plan each week in advance and schedule in communication times. If something pressing has to take precedence over your communication time, don’t delete it, reschedule it.
– Plan into your schedule when and how often you will check your messages. This gets harder and harder as your hand-held device pings you to say a new message has arrived. You can end up spending a lot of time responding to low priority messages while the high priority ones remain unanswered.
– Be gracious. When emails first appeared, followed by all the other platforms, it was often said that the advantage was that you could get “right to the business”. In other words you didn’t have to take the time to greet someone, affirm the other person, thank them, or otherwise demonstrate the sort of empathy that was expected in handwritten letters. In my view that is a sad loss. It’s not really time-consuming to say “thanks for all the effort you put into this” or “I appreciate this or that about you”.
– If for some reason you expect that you will be unable to answer emails for a few days or even a couple of weeks, notify the people who are likely to be in touch. Most platforms make provision for an automatic reply that explains your period of absence.
– If your correspondent wants or needs help that you cannot provide, for example they ask a question that you cannot answer, send a brief note saying exactly that, and that you will try to find the answer or refer the question to someone else. Just a quick answer will let the person know that they are not being ignored.
– Politeness costs nothing but makes a huge difference in making people feel valued.
“Reliable communication permits progress” Proverbs 13:17 Living Bible.