Why are you telling me?

Why are you telling me?

May 15th, 2013 // 7:39 pm @

email-archivingWhen communicating with a colleague in business make sure you know why you are communicating with them, and what response you desire? When you and them have different expectations, confusion will ensue!

The core of communication is to take an idea in your brain and to communicate that idea to someone else’s brain. Sounds simple, but it is not. The majority of communication ends with at least a slightly difference in understanding from what was intended.

Often this is not critical, however it can be, wars have started over communication misunderstandings, battles have been lost and people have died. The charge of the Light Brigade was a simple communication error and hundreds died.

One key part of communication but not the only one is telling people why you are communicating with them in the first place. This we often believe is obvious, but it is often not to the recipient, and if they believe the reason for communication is different from what you intended, then they may react in a way you never expected.

There are essentially three reasons to communicate important things in business:

  1. This issue needs a more senior decision than I can make, here are the facts, please make a decision.
  2. I have made a decision and am acting on it, and I am telling you for information, I do not need you to do anything.
  3. I have a decision to make, I would like your thoughts, and then I will make a decision.

If you intend one but do not make it clear which one you want and the recipient reacts with a different response you have confusion.

I remember having sent my boss a note telling him, I thought clearly I had made a decision and was acting on it, and was telling him for info. Only to get back his decision that was different to mine. This was not his desire to overrule my decision, just I had not made clear what I intended, confusion ensued.

This issue is made worse by email, for two key reasons. Firstly we often and too easily copy one email to multiple people, and the objective of the communication can be different by person. We may be asking one person for a decision, and copying others for information. Rarely do we clearly mark emails “Copied to X for info only”. Possibly a new address field in emails systems we use might help, “Copied for Information Only”.

Secondly the way people react to emails. Emails make communication quick, and easy, and have proliferated the amount of communication we receive, but have led us often to poor communication. Therefore people are inundated with emails and how often have we all heard someone say “I must clear my emails” not read them or contemplate what they say, but to clear them, the wording we use demonstrates our attitude towards them.

This reflects our desire to get rid of them as quickly as possible, and get that sense of relief when the inbox is empty, regardless of the quality of our reaction to each email.

It is therefore easy to read an email and assume you are being asked for a decision and give one, when actually you are being sent something for information only.

Some tips for avoiding these issues:

  • Think through who you are communicating with and why.
  • Make it clear to each person you communicate with what action if any you expect from them.
  • Use the “Draft” box, draft emails and leave them for a few hours, or preferably until the next day and read them and see if they are clear. I guarantee if you do this for a few days you will be horrified when you reread some of your own communication.
  • Do not feel obliged to respond to all communication; often all that is required is to read it.

I will now save this, and reread it latter to see if it makes sense.



Category : Blog &Management Technique

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