Now I’m no expert, nor do I claim to be, but I certainly do try to be a good communicator.
I think it’s safe to say we all know the basics to being a good communicator. At least I give the benefit of the doubt until proven otherwise! I’m sure we can agree on the short list; make eye contact, be friendly, smile, be a good listener, be present, don’t cross your arms, nod your head, wait until it’s appropriate to speak, ask questions…how are we doing so far? You would be nodding if we were face to face right? Ok great! Everyone can put check marks beside each one then. You pass (until you prove otherwise).
What I want to talk about today is the communication we do day to day online, with our customers and/or other businesses. I know I don’t speak only for myself when I say the volume of communication online is overwhelming, taxing and most of all time consuming. What’s the answer?
- Start an email with a greeting or salutation ‘Hello, hope you are well.’ or something to that effect
- Be as clear and direct as possible (avoid jargon, abreviations or tech-talk)
- Know your audience (critical in communicating appropriately)
- Avoid offering something that isn’t being asked for
- Don’t avoid answering questions
- Use emoticons to show expression (but do so sparingly)
- Be present! Don’t try to squeeze in a reply while you’re wrangling cats
- Reread your message before hitting send (out loud is a good technique)
- End your message with your name (not an initial or an email address, but your actual name)
- Write as if the person is standing in front of you
That last one, number 10, write as if the person is standing in front of you. This one is a personal biggie for me. I am working very hard on this one. I will not open a message if I cannot respond right away. I used to take a peak and reply if it was urgent and leave it otherwise. I found those messages buried in a sea of messages, or completely forgotten about all together. They became old news before they had a chance to ever be new news. I was overwhelmed searching through message feeds on my various platforms. Trying to find a message I needed to reply to. Disaster. Then there were the ones I responded to on the fly. They were poor at best. You know the ones, waiting in the line up at the grocery store and someone messages you about an order. Not a good time to respond. See number 7. If you leave a message untouched, it’s easy to find when you need it. As well the sender doesn’t see that you’ve opened it and left them hanging. So annoying to know your message has been read, but wasn’t worthy of a reply. I get it, we’re busy, but don’t open the message then!
Next, when I open a message I treat it as if the person was standing right there in front of me. If you were in a store and asked someone for a price or for help and they just looked at you, turn and walked away, would you still be there when they ‘conveniently’ returned? No, never! Why should we treat people reaching out online any different? This was an eye opening realization for me. I needed to stop procrastinating with my replies. Today’s procrastination is tomorrows ‘Oh crap’. Once a message is opened it deserves a response.
Now that being said, I do try and block my communication times for online messaging. I check in with emails, Facebook, Instagram first thing when I start my day while I drink my morning coffee. I will check the odd message throughout the day if time allows for an immediate response and I give myself half an hour to an hour before the end of my day to check in with my message centers again before heading home. I do like to stay connected, so I can count on another check-in from the comfort of my living room before I head to bed. I try really hard to balance ‘available’ and ‘reasonable’ as best I can. I think 3 solid check ins a day is more than manageable for myself. And I think that’s just it, finding your balance and what works for you and then sticking to it. Don’t be a slave to your screens. If you can get it under control and give yourself a routine, you will feel free’d and back in the drivers seat. Maybe it’s once a day for you or twice. Maybe more. The point is to find what works for you and stick to it. Routines are good for us mere mortals. Which is why I think so many of us are feeling overwhelmed and completed drained over online communications.
I’m not perfect at any of the above list and some days certainly are better than others, but I can promise you that I am trying to be a better online communicator. For me and my businesses. I personally didn’t grow up with devices and internet (uh oh I just aged myself!), so it is a skill that I am constantly working on.