Electronic Communications: Blessing or Curse?

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How can you foster productive relationships in one-way electronic communications, so popular now?

If you are like me and prefer telephone contact to electronic communication, here are the positives I have discovered since 1980 when I was the Risk & Insurance Manager for Safeguard Scientifics, Inc., when it developed the first e-mail provider, CompuServe.

I state advantages first to focus on my purpose here to help each of your electronic communications be successful and efficient the first time, every time—

 

 Emailing & Texting:

  • EM & T:  Freedom to send and receive messages 24/7
  • T:  You can communicate wherever you are, provided you have a cell phone or other mobile device
  • EM & T:  People often answer faster
  • EM & T:  Many people would rather get a quick e-mail or text message
  • T:  Most text messages are need-to-know brief

Here are some of the drawbacks of electronic communication: 

  • Electronic communications often lead to the dehumanization of interpersonal relationships
  • Receiving sloppy, unprofessional electronic messages without much thought or attention to detail makes you feel disrespected
  • It’s easy to find yourself in electronic misunderstandings that rarely happen over the telephone or in personal conversations
  • Electronic communications are often self-centered
  • Frustrating one-way communication annoys

All good communication has and holds onto these six characteristic components:

  1. Courteous
  2. Clear stream of thoughts
  3. Cut-to-the-chase
  4. Connected to the subject on the table as well as to the speaker
  5. Considerate of the positions of others
  6. Communicators seek to understand and be understood

          Honestly, I find doing these six things work and I miss the mark more often than I would like. Still, knowing what they are makes all of us and each of us more able to use all six when it counts most. The more we keep up our awareness of them and use them, the greater the likelihood they can become a hallmark of our communication style.

          Have you ever thought about your particular communication style? Here are six common communication styles:  confident, aggressive, wordy, precise, helpful, argumentative. While most of us are likely to feel we are confident, helpful or precise communicators, is it possible we also engage in aggressive, wordy and argumentative styles?  

          At workplaces, the styles of the leaders determine the quality and effectiveness of business communications. To keep a harmonious relationship between bosses and employees, the boss needs to understand how to gain employees’ encouragement and support. Employees need to trust their bosses enough to be open with them. Most importantly, successful relationships happen best when bosses and employees can show that they care about one another. In electronic communications, without facial expressions, body language and tone of voice, this becomes much more challenging.

          The most important consideration in brief electronic business writing is it needs to communicate your message with all the necessary details. Too many tap out their messages and push send without reading them over first. Because you get no second chance after you push send, successful electronic communicating, ironically, requires your highest and best communication skills.

          Do you believe that? Are you thinking of the confused blather, misspellings, initials replacing words, and one-word communications that come up on your screens? When you hurry, are you sometimes guilty of speed at the expense of a clear message?

Here are some electronic communications rules that can help you make yourself understandable in one-way communications:

  • Consider the person who will be receiving your message. What kind of communication will work best for your relationship?
  • State your message clearly, specifically in an organized way in simple language
  • Be polite, respectful and professional
  • Keep messages short and to the point
  • For e-mails, write a subject line that clearly states why you are sending the e-mail
  • If you are answering a person’s e-mail, always include the person’s message to you
  • Put the most important information first, inverted pyramid style
  • Make your message focused, organized, and state what action you would like your message to accomplish
  • Write in a conversational tone

Here are some general electronic message practices that can really frustrate people and make you look unprofessional:

  • In response to an e-mail, never reply with Yes or No – Why? You know how many e-mails you get every day. It’s arrogant to expect your receiver to know exactly what you are responding to
  • Messages with misspelled words, faulty punctuation, and sentence fragments all shout unprofessional to your receiver
  • Avoid replacing words with visuals emoticons or letters initialisms
  • Commit to respond to messages within 24 hours
  • Keep sensitive, confidential, and gossipy subjects out of messages
  • Don’t send angry, offensive, complaining messages
  • Be careful about forwarding messages without permission for many reasons: the sender may not want you to send it to others; many get dumped into SPAM, and most people dislike second-hand messages
  • Avoid hounding people with message after message when you fail to get a response as fast as you would like
  • Avoid using electronic messages like a one-tool hammer and make sure that electronic is the best way to convey your message

          E-mail definitely has legal issues related to it. Have you seen  disclaimers at the bottom of e-mails you receive? You may want to consider with professional counsel whether you need to address disclaimers in the sending of certain types of e-mails. Everyone should be aware that company e-mails sent on company computers are company property and can be monitored and read at the authorization of the company.

Certainly, a company needs to establish a clearly understood e-mail policy that communicates the company policies and procedures and answers these questions:

  1. What is appropriate use for e-mail communications?
  2. What information is too confidential to be sent in an e-mail?
  3. Are employees allowed to use business computers for personal e-mails?
  4. What are the privacy rights of employees regarding company e-mails?
  5. What disclaimers must be used on what types of e-mail communications?

          Like any other kind of communication, electronic communication needs to follow some basic good manners. Do the necessary so your electronic messages can be a real productivity blessing. Fail to and they can be your worst nightmare.

          Have questions? Give me a call.

© 2011 Electric Envisions, Inc. http://www.ElectricEnvisions.com
Barbara Garro, MA, CPCU is a Motivational Writer & Coach, Speaker, author of Grow Yourself  a Life You’ll Love and From Jesus to Heaven with Love: A Parable Pilgrimage. Contact:  518-587-9999, Garro@ElectricEnvisions.com

2 Comments
  1. Jack Eason says

    I couldn’t agree more Barbara.

    However, there are some distinct advantages to the current ‘keep them at a distance’ way of establishing friendships via the internet, both for you and for them.

    For one thing, any totally disgusting personal habits our electronic friends and us may have like picking our noses, or personal hygiene problems, cannot be experienced at first hand by either party thank goodness.

    As for their seemingly poor grasp of the fundamentals of language…

    😉

  2. Andrew J. Sacks says

    Right, Barbara. We must be careful and prudent, and certainly follow some new rules of decorum. Thank you for your customary fine posting.

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