There’s no doubt we are struggling to communicate with each other. I don’t mean that we are having a hard time understanding each other, although that certainly happens. I mean we are having troubling connecting, knowing which medium to use to reach which audience … and get a response! Whether it is a “yes” to a proposed meeting date, the return of a signed form or a customer’s thoughts on a product, it is sometimes as much of a challenge to get an answer as it was in the days of the Pony Express (http://ponyexpress.org/)
A solution may lie in our using more than one technology to accomplish a particular task.
For example, if you send out email inviting people to a meeting with a request to respond by a reasonable date and two or three of those people don’t reply, chances are the initial email has, for lack of a better phrase, “gotten away from them”. Sending another email to their obviously crowded inbox, may not be productive.
It’s true that you can send a follow up email with one of those priority exclamation marks attached to it, but I tend to reserve those for really crucial matters. Using this approach for a volunteer committee meeting, for example, would seem a bit rude to me (but I’d love to hear your comments on this).
But why not pick up the phone to draw attention to the unanswered email? A short message that let’s them know when it was sent and the subject line might be appreciated and provide a quick response. And there’s always the possibility they’ll answer the phone and you’ll be able to confirm their attendance immediately!
Another example: You are about to send someone something that they need to deal with immediately and get back to you – a document they need to sign perhaps. Rather than send the email unannounced, hoping they see it and act on it, why not pick up the phone at the same time you hit “send”. Your message can be something like “Letting you know that the form we talked about is now in your inbox. It does need to be submitted by Friday at noon. Don’t hesitate to call or write with questions or comments. Otherwise, I look forward to receiving the form back from you very soon.”
Since we are living in a multiple choice world and we often don’t know which choice our audience prefers, perhaps its time to choose more than one. While you may be most comfortable using one medium, great communication isn’t about you … it’s about your audience!
What are your thoughts? If you have a moment to share it will make us all better communicators!