Communication Breakdown

Have you ever received an email from a colleague or client that just rubbed you the wrong way?  Maybe it was a one line response to a lengthy email you sent.  Maybe it was a detailed response that read like a criticism of all your latest efforts. Maybe it simply sounded sarcastic, blunt or indifferent.

Did it ever occur to you that you might have the same effect on your readers, even if you never intended to put someone off?

Consider this: when it comes to communication, 55% of the information we absorb to interpret a message is visual (body language, eye contact), 38% is vocal (pitch, speed, volume, tone) and only 7% of the message comes from the words themselves.  That means email, websites, social networking – almost every mode of communication we use on the web is only giving us 7% of the message. This should give you some pause.  If you can’t convey your message with clear, strong, approachable language, you’re readers will quickly move on to someone you can.  Cruel, but true.

Giving your communication skills a tune up will help you avoid a costly breakdown.

Here are some quick tips:

Think first. Moving quickly can be a significant hindrance to successful communication. So before putting your fingers to the keyboard, really think about what you’re trying to convey in your email.  Taking the extra time will give you a chance to develop your thoughts clearly so that your writing can follow suit.

Review your email. This comes second nature to copywriters; we review and review for tone, message and proper grammar in everything we write (including our blog posts and letters to our mothers). But for most folks, you’re simply shooting off a response to someone and assuming that your words say exactly what you mean.  But remember, the reader can’t see your body language or hear the inflection in your voice.  So make sure you review what you’ve written at least once.  Be critical in your review; changes you make might save you a client.

Hire a professional copywriter. This may sound like an in-your-face sell, but the truth is that small 7% of total communication is all the Internet affords you.  So your copy becomes extremely important to the branding of your company.  A great graphic designer can help communicate the visual tone of your organization and the copy works in tandem to deliver the message that will make potential clients pick up the phone.

Remember, communication is a two way street. The next time you get an email that ruffles your feathers, take a moment and consider if the sender just isn’t a great communicator.  In your response, thank them for their email and ask for just a few clarifications to see if you can help them tell you what they need.

So the next time you write an email or hire a copywriter for your website, think about that 7%.  The old adage “chose your words carefully” has infinitely more meaning today.  But with some forethought and awareness, you’ll be sure to pluck the right words out of the communication ether.