Guest post by Lena L. West, Social Media Strategist
Today, most of us work with people virtually in some capacity.
Either you have a virtual assistant, you have a team-member who lives in a different state or possibly a service provider who lives in a different country.
No matter what the case, all of this requires us to be able to communicate effectively. It simply won't do to have poor communication skills. (That's why we've added some sort of writing skill as a "must have" to almost all of our job descriptions and also why I'll hire a good writer to do anything any day, but that's another post for another time.)
- Don't say "it", "that" or "those". Be specific about what you're referring to. When you write an email and use the word "it", what do you mean by "it"? Is "it" a phone, a location, a hobby? What is "it"? Ditto for any other non-specific pronouns.
- If someone gives you the choice of "blue or red", don't reply with "yes". Tell them specifically which one you're choosing.
- Don't expect someone to remember what you spoke with them about last week or even yesterday. When reaching out, devote a quick sentence or two to a recap and then move on. People are busy and they can't be expected to remember what you're referring to.
- And, along the same lines, don't start an email in the middle of an idea. The person you're sending it to is probably engrossed in their own work and it will take them time and energy to figure out what you're talking about and most times they have to come back to you with a bunch of questions to get to the bottom of what you're trying to say. Avoid all that by being clear in the first place.
- Don't send three emails when one can do. It shows you're unfocused and it's egotistical. What you're really saying is, "I expect you to work to figure out what I'm saying here. You put the puzzle pieces together because goodness knows you don't have anything better to do." Well, maybe not all that, but you get my drift. Don't clog up someone's inbox because you want to respond to questions one at a time. If you find it hard to focus (and some people do), work with a coach to help you with that because real business people won't tolerate it for long.
- Ditto for typos. No one is perfect, for sure (heck, for all I know there's a typo in this blog post), but read what you wrote, do a spell check and see if you can understand what you yourself wrote! At least make the effort.
- Use timezones and times of day. We have them for a reason. Not everyone is in your timezone and furthermore many people don't know where you are. 8:00 am or pm??? EST or PST?
All of these things might sound really simple, but I can't tell you how many times I've had to reply to someone and ask them, "what do you mean?" or "do you mean X or Y?" or "is this Eastern or Central?"
Everyone is always riffing about how they don't have time and the truth is if people were to pay more attention to their writing, they wouldn't have to go back and explain themselves over and over -- wasting even more time.