Have you noticed that communication continues to be one of our biggest challenges in many relationships at work and in life? It’s a byproduct of our hectic, hyper-digital, always on, assumption prone, tech world. And yet, so many continue to rely on hope to change their circumstances.
We hope our colleagues or bosses will change. We hope companies and industries will change. We hope we will win the lottery, quit our jobs, and catch a one-way flight to Fiji (but enough about my aspirations!! ;-)).
Instead of continuing to hope, how about eight practical tips you can start implementing immediately. Spoiler Alert – they all start with YOU!
- As a relationship builder, work on communicating clearly, succinctly, and specifically on what you want! Whether verbal or written, stop pontificating or beating around the bush. For the love of sweet Baby Jesus, get to the point! Most people don’t need, want, or care about all the background you often share! Relationships go bad with misaligned expectations. So, if your expectations are not communicated, you’re setting yourself up for the opportunity to be let down, disappointed, and misaligned! Eliminate guesswork, mysteries (before they become murder), and room for ambiguity to eliminate unnecessary follow on communication on how, what, when, where, why, who, why again, who again, and when one more time!
- Read your emails – from the beginning to the end! Read it thoroughly. Read it twice if you have to and ask:
- What does this relationship need from me?
- How can I be of service and value to them?
- When I respond, how can I ensure that I meet or exceed their needs, concerns, and requests – specifically, directly, and poignantly?
- Respond with “As you requested, attached is the file you need.” cc’ others, only if necessary to share facts, never opinions!
- Always close with an open invite, i.e. “Please let me know of any questions/concerns,” or “Please let me know if there is anything else you need?”
- Use manners your mama taught you, such as “please and thank you!” Few business relationship wants to read a military order, a command, or a ransom note. And despite what you may believe, most other people don’t work for you! Say things like “you’re welcome,” and “it’s my pleasure!” This way, your relationships will definitely know that you were “raised right,” as we like to say here in the South!
- Be responsiveness. Make it a game on how quickly you can get back to your relationships. In the absence of information, or replies, your relationships will wonder, assume the worse, or thin, what the heck is it that you do all day?!? People have high expectations of immediate responses. If you just quickly reply with a tidbit, they’ll be more gracious. “I’m tied up at the moment, will reply in more detail after 4PM today.” is SO MUCH better than the silence of an echo chamber! Bueller? Bueller? Anyone?
- If possible, eliminate phone or email tags! I use Calendly and often will ask for their best availability. Alternatively, here is my availability (with a link) if you want to find a good date/time for you? And I give them 15-30- and 45-min options. If I leave a relationship a voicemail, I’ll say “if I miss you, let me know the best time to reach you back.” I also often confirm details via text; so much easier with a follow up calendar invite with a Zoom link.
- Share calendars with your relationships. Outlook, iCal, Google Calendar, all are better than paper-based calendars. And each of these platforms allow you to share you calendar with as much or little details as you’d like. It can simply say “busy,” and that will (hopefully) let others know you’re not available. Be selfish with your time – I block off time to read, write, or go on bike rides. Fridays are also “me days” on my calendar for the entire 2022! BTW, shared calendars creates healthy boundaries. As I write this, Elaine Devine is riding a motorcycle through Italy. When Lin Wilson wants peace, I do my best not to pester him! Jenn Cordz is going to Norway to compete in the World Fly Fishing competition, and Jennifer Bridges, PMP, CHPC loves her summers at the beach! We share calendars and often talk about the things that can wait.
- Follow Through vs. Follow Up. The former is a process – “did you get what I sent, was it what you were looking for, how else can I help?” The latter is a transaction – “did you get what I sent? OK, great!” Care enough to combine your output with outcomes and ultimately impact. You creating and sending a report is not nearly as valuable, as insights from that report, and actionable next steps that will improve your relationship’s condition! That’s output + outcomes + impact!
- Level up your honesty, truth-telling, and candor with your relationships! Say what others can’t. Or won’t! Don’t make your relationships try to read your mind or guess that you’re frustrated, angry, or upset. Speak up. Without the drama, gossip, or theatrics. The political or social jockeying is one of the many things I dislike about most organizations or fake people. We need to learn to get and give feedforward to our relationships without feeling threatened, attacked, or somehow if you don’t think the way I do, than you’re evil!
Communication with our relationships is the connective tissues that bonds us, helps us feel and earn trust, connect in meaningful ways, belong, elevate ideas, and bolster others to succeed. You’re never going to be perfect at it. That’s not the goal. The goal is to keep getting better, learn from every interaction, and always aim to enhance, elevate, or otherwise amplify your brand, value, and relationships!