BARNES AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Massachusetts --
Communication is a fascinating subject...especially today.
We have come a long way since the clay tablets of Mesopotamia (dating back to 4,000 B.C.) We're no longer dependent on the elite scribes of ancient Egypt for reading, writing and interpretation (about 3,000 B.C.), and we have made great progress since the Age of Orality, featuring Socrates and Plato (about 300 B.C.).
The penny press of 1833 (The New York Sun) was the first known successful effort to "spread the word," on which we built this elaborate communication network that we enjoy today, from newspapers, television and radio to the World Wide Web - and beyond.
However, this new age of communication has led us to the tipping point of saturation. Everywhere we go there are messages coming our way. We have to quickly sift through the facts to find the important news and respond appropriately.
Communication saturation brings about incredible challenges for senders and receivers. As senders, we need to simplify our messages, be brief and specific. Follow-up is important, because the targeted receivers are filtering noise to find the message. As receivers, we need to find the important information, make sure we understand it and commit it to memory, or store it in an accessible place.
How well do you communicate?
As a sender, do you simplify your messages? Are you specific yet brief? Do you follow-up?
As a receiver, can you identify the bottom line? Do you ask questions? Do you let the sender know that you have received and understand the message?
Everyone has communication strengths and weaknesses. We can all improve.
Here are some simple points and practices that you might find helpful:
1) AUDIENCE: Analyze your audience, and think about how they might best receive your message.
2) MESSAGES: Simplify your messages. Make them informative yet concise. Remember to include a call to action.
3) CHANNELS: Use the best channel for the audience and the message. Send your important messages in multiple forms/channels, for example both verbal and written. Send quick messages in text. Use e-mail to document messages with a lot of detail.
4) FOLLOW-UP: (Most important) Follow up to make sure you've communicated effectively. Provide multiple (preferred) and accessible ways of contact.
5) PRIORITIZE: Don't interrupt one important conversation for another. Prioritize the senders and channels.
6) REMAIN ACCESSIBLE: Return calls, e-mails, and texts in a timely manner, even if it's a quick "thank you" or "will do."
Here are tips for the various channels of communication:
1) Use e-mail for information that is not time sensitive and to document your communication.
2) Use a subject line that effectively summarizes the conversation.
3) Keep the message focused.
4) Use standardized capitalization, spelling and punctuation. Set-up automatic spell check.
5) Be aware of tone -write with possible interpretations in mind.
6) Remember your audience, and don't get too informal at work.
7) Courtesy copy those who want to be, but don't courtesy copy those who don't.
8) Use a personalized footer in your e-mail with contact info.
1) Identify yourself.
2) Keep it brief but not too brief. Relay the basic subject matter with pertinent information; avoid a simple "call me back."
3) Don't repeat what the system already knows (date/time).
4) Leave your call back number at both the beginning and end of your conversation.
5) Don't leave a message if you're just checking in. Set-up a pact with close friends and family; a missed call is just a check-in.
6) Review your outgoing message...and make sure it is appropriate.
1) Handwritten notes are few and far between, but a great way to personalize your message.
2) Take time to write legibly.
3) Remember to include your contact information.
1) Think before you speak.
2) Use the appropriate volume for the audience.
3) Keep it simple.
4) Pronounce your words properly.
5) Avoid SAT vocabulary. (What does that mean?)
6) Don't talk too much. (My dad often reminds me of this one.)
1) Texting is a great way to send a short message - not a long one.
2) It's OK (and you are expected) to abbreviate.
3) If you have not successfully sent a text to someone before, keep in mind that the receiver may not be text savvy, so follow-up.
Finally, always remember to communicate safely. When using your cell phone in the car, use a handless set and refrain from texting while driving. This is going to become more of a safety issue over time, as we try to keep up with all the messages. Set your personal priority for safety now before you initiate bad habits. As our communication challenges grow, we need to remember how to safely and simply communicate.