It’s no surprise miscommunication is common in this day and age where more of our conversations take place over email, text or Facebook message.
A simple exclamation mark can indicate the writer of the message is either excited or surprised or angry. Whatever the intended tone was, the interpretation or meaning can be left open to the mood, mindset and setting of the reader, and it’s no wonder the intended tonality can easily be lost.
Even I have re-read my own texts or emails to ponder if it would have been interpreted the wrong way. I’ve certainly seen the perils of digital communication in both personal and professional situations, where the meaning of what was trying to be said did not quite come across the way it was intended, or God forbid, the message was sent to or copied in the wrong person – cue damage control.
Being the self-confessed systems nerd that I am, I have a few personal systems in place to help reduce the potential risk of miscommunication or conflict (which sometimes may take me a minute longer in the moment) but saves future Hermione some grief after pressing that send button.
- Remember the old school telephone – Quite often in our professional world we feel conversations need to take place in writing to be official. However, it’s amazing how much more can be resolved and covered in a shorter period of time, with far less chance of miscommunication if you just pick up the phone and call the person! Follow up the key points of the conversation in an email or the notes of your CRM software.
- Don’t play tennis – If you send an email, receive one back, and cannot close the conversation with the return email back to them then it’s time to pick up the phone. If you’re finding yourself in contact email tennis conversations you’re wasting time and maximising your chances of miscommunication.
- Include contingency plans – When sending an email or a text offering a solution to a problem, or updating a client, or confirming information, be sure to take a moment longer to include the next steps or contingency plan. This will save you receiving an email back asking “so what happens next?”
- Take one minute more – Take one minute more to re-read your communication from the other person’s perspective to see how they will interpret it – and if you would have additional questions as a result of reading it. If there are more questions raised you should endeavour to include them in your communication to avoid the backwards and forwards, and help them understand first go.
- Don’t be sloppy – Abrupt emails with half-finished sentences, bad grammar and spelling, abbreviations, all indicate one thing to the person on the other end, that you are far too busy to be bothered with writing back properly. Whilst this might be acceptable for your best friend who knows you and what you mean, in a professional setting this could result in you instantly losing your credibility and ultimately lead to misunderstandings and costly errors.
- Be specific – Saying you’ll come back to someone “soon” is no longer good enough. You need to give specific time responses or expectations from your communication. What you will be doing and when you will do it by. Remember the definition of “soon” may vary greatly from person to person.
We can’t avoid digital communication completely in this 'Google age', (and I’m here to tell you it’s probably only going to get more digital as time goes by) so these little personal systems will help you to ensure you avoid as much miscommunication as you can. Happy communicating!