19 Feb Effective Communications
People have been communicating for centuries through varying methods starting with primitive grunts, hand signals, and pictures on cave walls evolving into thousands of languages around the world. Our tools have changed as well; from stone tablets, to paper and ink, to our modern-day digital communications. Every step making it easier to send information from one person to another and now, virtually instantly.
Our challenge has always been ensuring effective communication. Webster’s Dictionary definition of effective is: “producing a decided, decisive, or desired effect” and of communication is: “a process by which information is exchanged between individuals through a common system of symbols, signs, or behaviors”. Therefore, one could say, effective communications is the exchange of information to achieve a desired effect.
In our present day, communication is critical for individual and business success and the tools we have facilitate communication that fulfil our desire for instant gratification. With the integration of Text, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, WhatsApp, Facebook, and so forth, in our daily lives, we are continuously connected with our work, social life, family, and everyone for that matter. Although this technology has brought us further than ever before in terms of virtual connections, in my opinion, it has brought us further from effective communication.
Some may argue that this is effective communication however, I believe this is more convenient than effective. I have been in business since before cell phones, e-mail, and texting. To be honest, I believe we are losing our ability to effectively communicate with each other as we move further away face-to-face meetings where the personalized elements of communication such as gestures, facial expression, and emotion are even more important than the written or verbal information itself. Even a carefully written email or extensive phone conversation can leave you with questions. The addition of emojis, photos, or videos helps but we will still be unable to interpret virtual messages as if they were communicated in person.
Hiding behind a screen during conflict and the ‘ghosting’ phenomenon is far from what the web developers intended when they imagined the virtual world of effective communication. The nature of instant messaging allows us to express real time reactions and sometimes takes away thinking process where you should allow yourself time to reflect in order to respond with a clear head. Also, our attention span has decreased and distractions have increased which has changed business marketing; we rely on a few pictures, 3 second video clips, or 140 characters or so to communicate an entire idea and encompass our brand. We must be concise, entertaining, educational, and represent our brand simultaneously.
In my business, we value in-person, effective communication and are keen to provide detailed and accurate information to our clients, suppliers, subtrades, and employees. This ensures a higher level of productivity and minimizes mistakes as well as establishes a meaningful relationship and facilitates trust. These same principals apply to communicating with a friend, partner, or children; take the small amount of extra time to ensure you are communicating effectively.
There are many occasions when instant and brief communication causes more confusion and conflict. This is why I often follow up a phone call or face-to-face meeting with an e-mail detailing what was decided or requested. A quick and easy response may be misleading with something so simple as using enthusiastic punctuation!!! I have read e-mails from clients that I interpreted completely different from another person in my company. When in doubt make a call or meet with the person; this will build trust.
On another note regarding communications, I believe everyone deserves the respect of a response. If a person has taken the time to send you a message or ask a question, it is important that you check your messages regularly and answer promptly. We have so many methods of communicating yet we still encounter people who do not respond. Sometimes a response, such as confirmation of receipt is all that is required, especially in business. I consider a response a professional courtesy.
As you can tell from this article, I place a lot of value in effective communications, regardless of the method and have had more success when I take the time to think, prepare, and then communicate. If it is a request from a client, preparing instructions for projects, or scheduling crews for the week, effective communication is essential for success.
I hope this article causes you to think about how we communicate as you pursue your passion.
Dan Monk, P.Eng.
Owner / Civil Engineer / Red Seal Carpenter