Communicating in the workplace has never been more complex.
Alternative working arrangements and an increase in technology has led to employees struggling to decipher emails, messages and, in some cases – post-it notes.
As communication professionals, we strive to engage with clarity and empathy, and this approach must be applied to all workplaces – primarily as we now rely heavily on digital communication.
Gone are the days of communicating in-person and across a table in a team meeting. With the influx of digital communication platforms such as Slack, Microsoft Teams and other IM tools, we spend less time reading content and more time sending brief, skimmable messages.
Combined with the overwhelming number of emails and messages, we are now responding to poorly written, brief, and confusing emails in the same way.
So in a bid to overcome the dread associated with an unclear email, ask yourself these three questions before you hit send:
- Is my email too brief?
Take the time to review your email and read it from the recipients perspective. While we are always on the go, our inbox can be overwhelming, and unclear email can contribute to a lack of accuracy, clarity, and respect.
Before you hit send, proofread your emails. Check to see if there is room for misinterpretation or if there is missing punctuation.
There is a difference between being concise and brevity. Responding to questions in a straightforward manner rather than a simple “yes” or “ok” can help your colleagues and employees work smarter and faster.
- What tone am I projecting?
Tone — the overall attitude, or character, of a message — is another crucial component of solid reading and writing skills.
Perhaps more than anything else, it’s the greatest tool for communicating empathy. So ask yourself: Who is the recipient? Who is the audience?
We all know the difference between “K” and “Ok!”. It is hard to channel empathy in a purely digital format, so be aware of who the audience is and how they may interpret your message.
- Would it help to talk instead?
Email burnout is very real.
Before you hit send and engage in a dialogue with a colleague or client, ask yourself if you could clearly articulate this email or message via a phone call, quick chat or video call.
The next time you receive an unclear message, it is completely acceptable to request a phone conversation or chat to clarify the next steps.
While you may not feel confident in your request, it shows that you are willing to connect with a colleague to discuss the issue at hand and move forwards with the request, or task at hand.
Ultimately, when we are faced with a lack of face-to-face communication and the ability to decipher body language, having the skills to read and write carefully is essential to employees and organisations that want to ensure their teams are ready and able to navigate the new digital landscape.
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