Analog Thoughts in a Digital World
by Kate Lett
Today we are bombarded with different types of technology and various forms of communication. We carry all of the answers to the great questions of the universe in our pockets and purses. From liking comments on social media or a quick Snapchat, to business emails or a confirmation text, it appears we are more connected than ever. That’s in addition to group chats and hangouts, video chats or conferences, all of which were science fiction until just a few years ago. If we are so connected, and everything moves lighting fast, why does it often take so long to accomplish small tasks and make decisions? While there are many possible answers to this question, one of the simplest is people no longer pick up the phone. What starts as a simple question from a client, vendor or agency over email can turn into a long conversation involving seven people, instead of just two, which could last for weeks. People get looped in that often don’t need to be a direct part of the conversation, which further complicates matters. Frequently, everyone has an opinion but no one wants to take the lead. Management is then included, who offers direction a week later which of course needs clarification. More emails go back and forth, finally the original question is answered, although at this point it may no longer be a problem. In the words made famous by Bart Simpson, “Ay caramba.”
Simply picking up the phone and consulting with team members or a manger can be quick and efficient. Talking to the team and coming up with the best possible solution allows for faster and more direct communication. This means actual business can move faster instead of being hung up on one small problem. Another scenario goes something like this…Partner asks a simple question. Team member responds with a 1,000-word answer. Partner responds with confusion. Team member replies again, but this time with a 1,500-word response to “clarify.” Partner never feels like the question was adequately answered. Not only does this type of interaction erode relationships, it is a waste of time and typically solves nothing. Further, it will make the partner, who asked the original question, hesitant to contact the team member again in the future. We are so ingrained with the idea that more is better that we sacrifice our own precious time in creating the unnecessary. Rarely does a anyone need the equivalent of War and Peace as a response. And if they do, often there are larger issues at hand. An overly elaborate email response isn’t doing anyone any favors. Time is wasted writing it and time is wasted reading it. Let’s be honest, it took an hour to write and chances are the recipient will stop reading after the first paragraph.
A better way is using concise direct language. If a client writes back and still has questions, give them a call. A 10-minute chat will save a huge amount of time and effort for all parties involved. A quick follow up email can easily be sent after the call to document the conversation. The same holds true on the other end of the spectrum. Texts messages are a great way to communicate small amounts of information quickly. But often texts don’t provide enough space to adequately express the message. This leads to more texts, and of course much need clarification. As we move farther away from talking directly with people, our verbal communication skills will slip. We fill voids with “ums” or other words that are comfortable for us. In short, people need to be trained (and encouraged) to speak on the phone. Many organizations contribute to or pay for any educational classes which strengthen skills needed in the workplace. Ask about training options for phone communication and if there are not any in your area, ask about a public speaking class. There are many well-known and respected options available across the country. While these differ from the speaking to a client on the phone, many of the skills overlap. It will contribute to stronger business relationships and a more efficient workplace.