If you've ever felt the sting of miscommunication, the anger, resentment, frustration and lost time and revenue, it would be worth a few moments of your time to review what I call communication based on "uncommon sense."
Before we can discuss how to communicate clearly, via email or telephone or other media, we need to define what communication is and is not.
Communication is NOT:
However, communication is:
Let's explore what this all means, with a little story.
Susan is a scheduler for ABC consulting firm. She receives an email request Monday morning for a consultant to meet with a client on Wednesday at noon. At this point, she sends an email to the consultant requesting her presence at the client's on Wednesday, and another email to the client letting them know the consultant is scheduled, and considers her job done.
Has she done her job?
Some of you may be snickering at this point. There are several huge communication gaffes here that need fixing before we can consider that she has communicated properly with her client and with her consultant. First and foremost, Susan has not communicated anything to anyone at this point.
How can I say that, when she sent 2 emails in response to the initial request?
Because she has absolutely no idea if either party received the message, and if they will follow through on the requests. Susan has committed the classic blunder of one-way communication based on assumption, taking the common and simple way out. While she may get lucky and all parties may receive the messages and proceed with the appointment, at some critical moment this precarious game based on luck and hope will break down. Ask me how I know!
As a consultant myself, and having worked for many years with different schedulers, I have had the exact situation above occur, only instead of receiving the email before the appointment, I got an email and phone call the day I was supposed to be there, asking me why I failed to show. Yet I had never received the initial email, for whatever reason. Or I had checked my email too late.
Simply put, technology fails. People don't always read emails even when they are sent on time. Without feedback from all parties acknowledging the original request, communication as I define it has not occurred. I define communication as a loop.
The Communication Loop
In its most basic form, communication is sending and receiving information. It is always a complete loop; it is not information sent out one-way. It is not you telling your clients, "I will be out of town next week" in an email or letter. That is only half the story.
Without the feedback loop, without hearing back from them that they received your message, and understood it, you have not communicated with them. You must hear back from them that they both heard and understood you.
In our original example, Susan would need to have requested confirmation from both parties that they received her message stating that the appointment was scheduled. In fact, it wouldn't hurt for Susan to then generate yet one more round of response to both parties letting them know that she received their confirmation.
This may sound overkill, but is it? Unless you speak on the phone simultaneously with both parties, communicating via email or voice mail alone is a perilous proposition--one sure to break down in an ugly way at the worst possible moment.
And it wouldn't have hurt for Susan to have sent out both an email and a voicemail to both parties, taking advantage of multiple media for her response.
I realize this makes communication a bit more work. But in the long run, the extra couple of minutes it takes will save a lot of hassle, heartache, hard feelings, and possibly a lot of money.
So communicate using uncommon sense. Remember, those who succeed do things that those who fail, fail to do.