• Caroline Ridgway

Think Before You Write

Updated: Apr 23, 2020

You get it. We’re all busy, on the go, rushing from thing to thing during the day only to crash at night, hope for a semi-balanced meal, and maybe an hour to decompress before sleep and do it all over. And, day to night, we’ve all become reliant on our devices for easy-access, immediate communication. It’s easy to send off a quick text or email in between meetings, waiting for an appointment to start, waiting to pick up the kids from school or a game, or whenever five minutes present.

The consequences of this lifestyle are difficult to avoid, and afflict us all. For one, the over-saturation of information. The messages fly fast and furious. We’ve all had the experience of leaving a meeting and seeing a huge backlog of notifications. And the related expectation that we’ll all respond right away. There’s less and less that qualifies as an excuse worthy of non-responsiveness. Ironically, social media memes tell us to find more experiences that enable us to not look at our phones. Our vision and our attention spans are incrementally failing.

So, a challenge for all of us: The next time you’re frantically typing out a text or email message in that minute and a half between one thing and the next, take a breath. How we communicate with people matters. How we communicate, and the words we choose, affect outcomes.

Have you ever been on the receiving end of an electronic communication that left you feeling somewhere between underwhelmed and downright offended? It’s far too easy to do, entirely without intention. Keeping a few things in mind can help minimize the risk of that text or email being dangerously misinterpreted.

As with handwritten communication, if you can afford to take the time, do. With limited exception, we could all mostly get by with waiting before responding. Urgency is a relative concept. If you give yourself time to process a communication and thoughtfully compose a response, you lessen the likelihood of typos or misstatements.

Use your words. Start your email by personally addressing the recipient by name. If you’re asking for something, say please. Express gratitude for their time and consideration. Be courteous. Full sentences and considerately crafted paragraphs with adequate punctuation convey a level of respect. Trust that the person with whom you are communicating has feelings, and that their time has value equal to your own.

Little kindnesses can make a big difference. I expect you can think of at least one example when a stranger’s smile made your day a little nicer. Imagine how that works in written communication. Go ahead and take the extra minute. It will pay dividends in your relationships both personal and business, and the results you’re hoping for.

#communication #writing #courtesy

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