Good communication skills are a must in today’s world. The days of the typed or handwritten note may seem archaic to some, but in reality, it was not that long ago. Today, these same notes come in the form of digital messages and are checked from multiple devices.
It doesn’t matter if you are a Baby Boomer or Millennial, self-employed or work for someone else, the old rule stands: the way you communicate is reflective of you. That includes your professional image and personal brand.
Be sure that you are not overlooking these five best practices that blend old school and new school for better business communication:
Don’t apologize for reaching out.
What are you apologizing for anyway? Chances are you are emailing (or calling) for a valid reason and shouldn’t be sorry. It might seem polite but in many ways “I am sorry to bother you…” will trivialize why you are reaching out. I have been guilty of this myself and still work to break the habit.
In school, we are taught that a paragraph is should be 3-5 sentences and support your thoughts. Five sentences in a paragraph can be hard to read. Be mindful of that and break it up. An email is not an essay, so it is okay to push the old school boundaries here. The reader absorbs and processes what you are trying to say much easier with the mental pause that a little white space provides.
Skip the email. Make the call.
Realize that email may not be the best communication form. Whether it is a sensitive situation or a complicated situation, there are times when a conversation is best. If you are having a hard time finding the right words or taking too long to draft it, pick up the phone. It saves time and allows you to be sure there is a clear understanding. If you need documentation, write a follow-up email confirming everyone’s understanding.
Double check recipients EACH and EVERY time.
Not checking what email addresses are included in your To:, CC: and BCC: fields is dangerous business. It is too easy to reply all or forward an email to the wrong person. On the flip side, replying only to the sender can leave the wrong person out of an important conversation. Take an extra second. It can prevent a lot of embarrassment and trouble when the wrong information (or comments) lands in the wrong inbox.
Keep it simple.
As a marketing consultant, I find that many times clients do not balance function and form. While it is important to keep an eye on design, sometimes it is better to stay simple. Fancy fonts do not always translate on various devices and browsers. Too many fonts and over designing is also a distraction. Be careful with this or you’ll run the risk of looking unprofessional and delaying load times.