Be Direct. Be Clear. No One Knows What You’re Thinking but You

Tracey and I are both very tidy people. We don’t like mess and we don’t like clutter. With that in mind, we always tried to raise our children the same way (with the obvious challenges of trying to get them to pick up after themselves).

Be Direct. Be Clear. No One Knows What You’re Thinking but You

One night after dinner, I noticed Danielle (about 10 years old at the time) put her dish in the sink instead of the dishwasher. Thinking I was clever, I decided to take her plate (after washing it off of course!) and slide it under the sheets of her bed. I figured she’d climb into bed, find the dish, realize her mistake and learn her lesson.  I anxiously awaited bedtime. Well, bedtime came and nothing. The next morning – nothing. Off to school went Danielle and she hadn’t said a thing. I went up to her room, saw her bed was made (small victory!) and stood there puzzled. I reached under the sheets, and there was the dish, exactly where I left it. I asked Danielle about it when she got home and she simply looked up at me with her oh so innocent face and said “I never even noticed it”.

So who really learned the lesson here? Clearly it was me. I thought I was being clever, but wouldn’t it have been much easier, much clearer and much more effective if I simply walked Danielle over to the sink and asked her to put her dish in the dishwasher? Of course it would have. I learned that day to be direct, be clear and that no one knows what I’m thinking but me.

We deal with hundreds of customers every week. Not to mention vendors, partners and other employees. With that, I’d like to share my thoughts around how to communicate effectively particularly when it comes to digital communications

  1. When writing an email, be concise and get to the point.
    I try to always remember that people are very busy and their time is valuable. If I need to send an email to someone, particularly one that requires a response, I try to make sure that I get to the point right away, and make my questions very clear. I find that putting questions or action items in bullet points is a very clear and effective way to communicate what I need. It’s easy for the recipient to scan the list and respond accordingly
  2. Respond quickly – even if not fully
    I check my email frequently. I do a quick scan to see if there is something that requires my immediate attention and I tend to it. If there are other items that are not pressing in my inbox, I make sure to write a quick response simply acknowledging to the sender that I received their email. Something as simple as “Thanks Bob, I’ll be sure to get you an answer to that question by tomorrow” takes only a few seconds and lets Bob know that I received his request. Not answering leaves him wondering. Did the email go through? Did I send that email to Scott? Does he care?Particularly when dealing with a potential customer, this is extremely important. If I wait 4 or 5 hours to respond, there’s a high probability they will go somewhere else and I’ll lose the business. As a said previously, even a quick acknowledgement lets them know I received their email and “I’m on the case”
  3. Use good punctuation, good grammar, good spelling and good format.
    First of all, nothing is more unprofessional than receiving an email that is full of typos, grammatical mistakes and abbreviations (please, no “lol’s”). On top of that, don’t make someone have to read your poorly composed email several times to figure out exactly what you are saying. Take 5 minutes and re-read your email before you send it. Remember, everyone’s time is valuable, don’t waste theirs.
  4. Follow up
    Don’t assume because you’ve sent someone an email or left them a voicemail, they’ve received it. Maybe they accidentally deleted it. Maybe the email ended up in their junk folder, maybe they just forgot. As a general rule, If I don’t hear from someone within 24 hours of a correspondence, I follow up. A simple resending of the email with the message “Hi Jim, just wanted to follow up and see if you had any questions” is all it takes
  5. When leaving a voice mail say your number slowly and leave it at the beginning AND end of the message.
    How many times have go listened to someone leave a very long voicemail and when the get to the end, they finish by saying “Anyway, give me a call at…” and then they rip through the phone number like an auctioneer! This is one of my biggest pet peeves. Now I have to go back and listen to your entire (usually rambling) voicemail, and race to try to write down the number and extension again. Any time I leave a voicemail, I start it by stating my name and my phone number (slowly!!), and finish it the same way.
  6. Don’t be afraid of your phone
    You all remember what a phone is right? You talk into it, and someone on the other end can hear you and talk back. If you have a communication that requires a lot of back and forth, don’t use email. It’s not efficient and doesn’t allow you to brainstorm or discuss ideas with the other person. Pick up the phone and give them a call. Work out all the details, and when you’re finished follow up with an email summarizing the final results (bullet points are very effective here). That way you’ll have a record of the result, but you’ll have answered all your questions or resolved all your issues quickly.

Bottom line is simple. Try to be clear, try to be concise and try to be conscientious of other people’s time.  A little effort goes a long way.