In the age of information overload and increased distractions, time has become more valuable. Yes, we have the same 24 hours in a day, but with how fast things are going, we’re pressured to squeeze in more work in each hour.
This is why effective communication matters. Most of us don’t have the time and energy to read lengthy emails or second-guess mixed messages. In this blog, we’ll talk about effective communication in the workplace, but these tips can apply to everyday conversations with your friends and family.
Keep it short and concise
It doesn’t exhaust. Similarly, we aim to keep this blog that way.
Let’s take one of the most popular business communication mediums: e-mails. Adults typically have an attention span of 8 seconds per task—and business people receive an average of 121 emails a day. In other words, if you’re the type of person who writes needlessly long emails, then these statistics won’t bode well for you.
Research from Boomerang reveals that emails that are 50-125 words in length are more likely to receive responses. A few words extra won’t hurt, but anything more than 2,500 words will cause a drastic drop in response rates.
Ditch the extraneous words and unnecessary details. In case you really have to write a long email, a smart tip is to have a summary at the beginning or end of your email.
Hit it straight to the point
We don’t mean being blunt to the point of being offensive. Of course, you must choose your tone and language well, but don’t beat around the bush. Get to the crux of the matter. For instance, let’s compare these exchanges:
Both got the point across, but the dialogue on the right shaved off a few minutes in the exchange. And Arwin wasn’t kept on standby wondering what the next message would be.
Have you ever been to a meeting that lasted for hours and you came out exhausted and unproductive? Likely, the meeting had no agenda and became a boiling pot for both important and unimportant discussions.
An agenda keeps meetings on track. It sets clear expectations and ensures that issues requiring our attention are prioritized. In fact, there’s a saying that goes “No Agenda, No Attenda”, or if the meeting has no agenda, don’t bother attending it as it can be a waste of time. Enette Pauze aptly says, “If time is the new money, then meetings are your biggest hidden tax. Agendas are the key to gaining compound interest.”
This doesn’t just apply to big meetings but online calls as well. For impromptu calls, set an agenda in your head of what you want to say and try to stay within that. When inviting someone for a call, give a short description of what the talk will be about, so they come in more prepared. So instead of saying, “Hi Jane, can we have a call now?”, you can say, “Hi Jane, can I call you about the budget spent in the recent marketing report?”
Don’t act based on assumptions
If you’re the sender of the information, make sure it’s clear and complete enough not to have the receiver scratching their heads. Meanwhile, if you’re on the receiving end and you don’t understand something, just ask!
Let’s take this: Adam receives a document from his supervisor, Mary, who asks him to check it. Adam, assuming that Mary is always busy, takes the liberty to check and rewrite it completely without asking—which Mary didn’t think Adam would do. In this case, Mary should’ve been clear with the task and Adam should not have assumed that was how the task was to be done. They then didn’t have to deal with the waste of time and the frustration of having to redo a simple job.
Assumptions will always be there, but it’s key to dispel them early on in the communication process by being more proactive — asking questions, taking down notes, etc. If you have assumptions, seek their validity before you act. Don’t let false assumptions lead you to unintended paths.
It’s no secret that effective communication is one of the most functional and sought-after soft skills across all fields. Leaders, movers, and successful individuals have them. Actions, decisions, business outcomes, career, relationships, and more are all dictated largely by how well you communicate and get your message across. Though culture and background influence the way we communicate, there are universal techniques to make it effective. And to top it all off, this valued skill doesn’t take too much effort to master—just consistency and practice.