Choosing the Right Interpersonal Communication Method to Make Your Point
Let Your Intention Choose Your Communication Method
HOST: Think about how you communicate with friends – social media, texting, video chat, e-mail. From one device or a bunch of them. Does anybody just make a phone call anymore? In the workplace we have the same communication options. But in the workplace we have to be careful about what methods we use. Because choosing the right – or wrong – way of communicating can have a huge impact. [Jack, Sofia, Jason, and Sulyn are in a meeting.] JACK: Still a problem. [Jack speaks to Sofia.] SOFIA: How so? JACK: Changed the font but kept the boring graphics. Didn't go with the new analytics like I… [Jack looks at Sulyn.] SULYN: ...like I suggested. JASON: Hey, I gave them the feedback. [Jason looks at Sofia.] SOFIA: How? JASON: How? SOFIA: Yes, how? JASON: Uh…a text. [Jason is hesitant. Sofia is annoyed and stares at Jason.] HOST: Choosing the right communication method starts with knowing your intention. Are you simply informing? Or, like Jason, are you giving feedback – feedback that, in this case, is critical to a project's success? In addition to informing or giving feedback, the other main intent of communication is to influence. But knowing your intention isn't enough. You need to choose the right method too. The method you choose has to support your intent – because some methods are better for sending certain messages than others. Let's have a look. When you're informing, you want a straightforward method that provides the information in writing, so people can refer to it at their own pace. So text-based methods – text messages or e-mail – are best. Face-to-face or over the phone? Less ideal. Now say you're giving feedback. In that case, you want something that conveys your tone and feeling. You definitely don't want anything one-sided. Discussion gives you a better idea of the impact of the message on your audience. So here, face-to-face is best. If face-to-face isn't possible, you can use the phone as a last resort. But forget about using a text message – like Jason did – for feedback. Don't use e-mail. And posting to social media is definitely not appropriate. Then there's persuading or influencing your audience. For this, you want a method that lets you use body language and visuals as much as possible. You also want to invite reactions and responses to your message. So dynamic, visual methods are ideal here – face-to-face, video conferencing, or a presentation – though e-mail and social media help you influence your audience too. And again, you could use the phone if you've no other choice, because it's at least less impersonal than e-mail. But text messages are a no-no. [Sofia and Sulyn are sitting at a table.] SULYN: Does he get it? SOFIA: Oh, he gets it now. The thing about Jason is, he doesn't think he's good at face to face. SULYN: But he's learning. [Sofia smiles and nods in agreement.] HOST: So when communicating, ensure you choose the right tools for the job. Feedback is best given face to face, whereas information can be conveyed in writing. But persuasion calls for something highly visual.
Your Audience Affects Your Method of Communication
SULYN: Think about your audience. JASON: Sofia? [Jason is confused.] SULYN: No, not Sofia – the Marketing Department! JASON: Oh, right. SULYN: What do they need to know? JASON: Well, the graphics change…the analytics. SULYN: Yeah…not "meet you at the restaurant at seven o'clock." [Sulyn is annoyed.] JASON: …smiley face. SULYN: …smiley face? JASON: I know…needs explanation right? SULYN: Right. So… JASON: So…I'll meet them and explain. SULYN: There you go. [Jason smiles.] HOST: Sulyn knows – and Jason now understands – your audience affects how you communicate. You have to know your primary intent when communicating, but there are other factors to consider. Think about what's best for your audience. You have to think about emotion. Will your message create an emotionally-charged situation? Is the person likely to be upset? Angry? Sometimes this may be obvious, like when you have to break bad news. As a general rule – if odds are good that the person may get emotional, you need to convey your message face to face. Fact. Or you can use another method that's still personal, such as over the phone or via video call. It gives you the chance to discuss the situation and come to an immediate understanding. But think about it – delivering bad news via text message isn't only a cop-out, it's also unprofessional. [A video of Jason plays. He is upset after reading a text message.] Then you also need to consider privacy. If what you're communicating isn't for public viewing, or you don't want news of it to get around – avoid texts, e-mails, or social media. Even if your settings are tightly managed, privacy is easily violated. You don't want to be the cause of a nasty rumor, or an information leak! Also think about dialog. E-mail threads are okay, sometimes, but there's nothing like a well-facilitated meeting to get a productive discussion going. There can't be consensus without dialog. [Jack and Jason are sitting at a table.] JASON: Like a dream JACK: Yeah? JASON: Like Sofia said, it's complex stuff. So I set up a meeting. Brought Sulyn in to facilitate. JACK: Smart. HOST: And let's face it: motivating people is a challenge! A lot of motivation comes from the tone and nuances of speech, body language, and action. Meetings where face-to-face interaction, dialog, and body language combine with video or graphic presentations, can motivate in more ways than written communications alone. And if you want someone to remember something – steps, guidelines, or instructions – you'll have to describe that info, give your audience something they can take away and refer back to. People don't always have time to commit something to memory on the first try. So consider your audience when deciding how to communicate with them. People have different needs, and ignoring that can be a mistake you can't afford to make.
E-Mail the Right People at the Right Time
HOST: In business, what do we use more than anything else to communicate? That's right, e-mail. What would we do without it? But then…how often do we complain about it? [Jack and Sulyn are at a table. Jack is looking at his smartphone.] JACK: Just after 9:00…and 45 e-mails already? Give me a break… SULYN: Ouch. JACK: Ten of these are from Andrea in Marketing…all with the subject line "Launch Event"…but she's going on about a guest list...a press release...equipment for slideshow presentation. And this one just says, "Thank you." And would it kill her to run a spell check? [Jack is annoyed.] SULYN: Oh hey, Andrea. [Sulyn waves at someone in the distance. Jack is uncomfortable.] HOST: Most business correspondence is done via e-mail. It's convenient, because you can use it to exchange information with coworkers, even when you're out of the office. Of course, as Jack just found out, sometimes nothing travels faster than the human voice. But just because you sent an e-mail, doesn't mean I read it. Or that I understood your intention – especially if your e-mail wasn't directed at me, personally. Or if it was poorly written. There's a right way and a wrong way to use e-mail. It's common sense, really. Don't use e-mail for messages with emotional content. And don't fire off a reply if you're angry, upset, or frustrated. By sticking to these basics, you help to build a respectful e-mail culture. But before drafting that e-mail, think about your intention and your audience as well. Consider what you want your reader to do with your message. Write how you would speak face to face. If you can't imagine doing so, or if it seems like a very tricky conversation, chances are your message isn't suitable for e-mail. So it's good to know when not to use e-mail. If your request is simple and brief, then send an invitation for a quick call instead. And respect other people's time. If you communicate frequently with someone, don't send separate, one-liner e-mails – combine them to save time. Creating one meaningful thread is easy to reply to and keep track of. And think about who's on the To, Cc, and Bcc lines – adjust them to match your intent. Make sure the person in the To line is the one you're really after – the person meant to take action. Cc means courtesy copy, so limit it to people who should be kept informed but who aren't required to act. Bcc is intended to be a blind courtesy copy. But if you can't openly include someone, maybe consider sending them a separate e-mail instead. Or forward the relevant mail to them separately, with a further explanation, if needed. So phrase your e-mails properly, and send them the right way…to the right people.
Write E-Mails that People Want to Read
HOST: Every workplace has that one person who just can't seem to get it right. Whenever they mail you, you cringe. It's nothing personal – their e-mails are just a mess. If only you could ignore it. But you can't, they'll just phone and ask if you've read their mail. So there's no escape...awkward. When drafting e-mails, make sure you structure the format and content professionally – this may be more important than you realize. The subject line, contents of your message, and structure of an e-mail can impact its effectiveness. The subject line is there for a reason. Use it to make your message clear and specific. You can also use it to grab attention, but first ensure the point of your e-mail is clear, judging by the subject line. A subject line of "Update on Launch Event" – clear enough. Or "Launch Event: Demo Video Idea" – that's even clearer and it grabs attention. And something many people forget – start with the most important information. Don't bury important details at the bottom. People don't always read that far. Which reminds me: keep your e-mails short. One screen is already too long. And if you have to use attachments, don't overdo it. It's also a good idea to summarize the key points, if you can. When structuring an e-mail, keep your intent in mind. Do you want to inform, give feedback, or influence? If your intent is to inform or give feedback – that's simplest. Just give the details and people can make their own decisions about the info. "The issue is closed;" "the procedure is this;" "the policy is that;" "here's a list." But writing to influence means you're expecting results. Perhaps you're seeking agreement on a decision, or you're asking for input. Be sure to say so. And whatever your intent, double-check your language to ensure it supports what you're saying. Also keep in mind that e-mails sent inside your organization are not private. You don't own the server. So always adhere to your company's e-mail policies. And keep things professional – don't put anything in an e-mail that you may regret if it becomes public knowledge. When it comes to e-mail courtesy, you also may want to set some ground rules with your coworkers or team, about what's okay and what's not. No need to send thank you e-mails. Or remind people not to use subject lines to dictate the urgency of an e-mail. Try and find a balance between camaraderie and respect for people's time. Sticking to the basics of proper e-mail structure and form helps ensure that when you send an e-mail, it gets you the response you were looking for.
Make Great Face to Face Communication Connections
HOST: When you need to make the biggest impact, nothing beats face-to-face communication. And the more important the meeting, the greater the stress. So make sure you go into any face-to-face meeting well prepared, which starts with knowing how to connect with your audience. [Jack and Jason are sitting at a table.] JACK: The whole department's going to be there. JASON: So don't sweat it. Do what I did with Marketing. JACK: Which was? JASON: Well, for one, I practiced. JACK: In front of a mirror, right? JASON: No…but that's not a bad idea. And another thing, when we started, I plunged right in. Told them that they got it wrong…but it was my fault we didn't meet sooner. [Jack nods in agreement.] HOST: Jason's giving Jack good advice. Face-to-face meetings start with context. Why are you meeting? What's the main point? And how can you establish your credibility? A face-to-face is an opportunity to grab people's attention, and engage them in the information and ideas you're presenting and sharing. As well as in-person meetings, face-to-face also covers video calls, virtual meetings, and video conferencing. Jack may be nervous, but he can win the audience over. How? When delivering your message, you want to demonstrate credibility and authenticity – this helps build trust. But…get to the point. Set the context of the meeting early on. And whatever your main focus is, stay focused on that – on your intention. Don't ramble or deviate from your message. It's okay to acknowledge off-topic comments from your audience, but take them up later. Your nonverbal message – your body language and tone – needs to match your verbal one too. So use your tone of voice to convey a positive attitude, and change your inflection to emphasize key points. Also look at your audience – eye contact equals sincerity. Your face tells a story – so let people see you smile to make everyone warm to you. Gestures can also help support a message, but keep them professional. So you've got the audience's attention, now it's time to connect with them. You can actually get a connection going even before you're face to face. Perhaps reach out via e-mail or text. Or add a question to your invite; it's a way to get people thinking. But say you're standing there, doing your thing, and it's getting a little noisy. Uh-oh. You're losing people. What to do? Well…you can shake them up by asking some open-ended questions. Nothing like a little pop quiz to perk up an audience. Or weave in some relevant examples or an anecdote that people can relate to. Another good idea is to engage the audience with activities or challenges. But keep it relevant to what you're talking about. You don't want it to be yet another distraction. [Sofia and Jason are sitting at a table.] SOFIA: I heard you told Jack he doesn't look in the mirror often enough. (LAUGHING)JASON: Hasn't done me any harm! HOST: Remember, to stay connected with your audience in a face-to-face meeting – prepare, stay focused, and above all, keep them engaged.
Start Off on the Right Foot When Delivering Feedback
HOST: We can all do things a little better, but we can all be sensitive when someone else tells us so. Especially in the workplace. Giving feedback to a coworker can be tricky. [Sulyn is sitting at a desk while on the phone.] SULYN: I did? And why, is that a problem? No, Jack I don't understand…oh, okay, you'll tell me later, is that what you're saying? No, never mind. [Sulyn is baffled.] HOST: Looks like Jack didn't do a great job of giving Sulyn feedback. Let's consider why. First of all, Jack picked up the phone when he should've given Sulyn feedback face to face – in person. Remember, feedback can be a touchy subject. You need to be sensitive to the other person's feelings. Jack could have used a video call to keep the personal aspect. But a phone call should definitely be a last resort. It's too impersonal. It's also important to use friendly body language – which went out the window completely, with Jack's approach – and a relaxed tone of voice. This way the interaction gets off on the right foot. You want the whole thing to be a positive experience, after all. So…maybe invite the person to have a conversation, even if you make it clear that the point is to give them some feedback. At least that way they feel like it's something you do because you care, rather than because they're in trouble. Having an overly-negative standoff only succeeds in making the other person feel defensive and frustrated, like Sulyn did. Jack could have gauged that conversation better if he had met Sulyn face to face. And given a specific business reason for the feedback. Once you sit down together to talk, relate the conversation to a specific business reason. Explain why you want to have this particular talk. You need to make it clear, using examples and emotional intelligence, what the issue is and why it's a problem. And it can't be anything personal – whatever issue you have, has to have a work context. In Jack's case, he needs to point out to Sulyn exactly how what she did, or said, impacts the business negatively. And do so with sensitivity and empathy. By sticking to the basics of face-to-face feedback, you ensure that you're both clear on the reason for the feedback, and what needs to change.
Deliver Feedback without Creating Drama
HOST: Poor feedback can be more than just a misunderstanding. It can lead to drama. And drama is great in the movies, but not in the workplace. [Sofia and Jack are having a meeting.] SOFIA: You didn't follow up, you didn't finish the report, and you didn't tell me why. [Sofia is irritated.] JACK: Anything else? SOFIA: Like that isn't enough? JACK: What about taking over Jason's team when he was sick? [Jack is disappointed.] SOFIA: We're not talking about Jason's team. JACK: Oh, right. We're not talking about what I do right – just what I do wrong. [Jack is angry.] HOST: Ouch. Jack and Sofia's exchange was not good. Obviously. But why? Well, for one thing, Sofia apparently forgot that feedback is meant to be supportive. She was dismissive. She let her own emotions cloud her judgment. Big mistake. Unless you're calmly supportive, whatever feedback you give won't be constructive. So to improve behavior and get business results, you have to treat the recipient of your feedback with respect and sensitivity. And involve them in the conversation, making it clear that it's a two-way conversation, not a firing squad. Chances are, they'll appreciate your comments, even if they still become emotional because of it. If emotion gets the better of someone, like in Jack's case, showing empathy can help reassure the person you're still on their side. Acknowledge whatever they may be feeling, but don't take back the feedback or apologize for giving it. Stay true to your original reason for wanting to give the feedback. And before the conversation ends, make sure you're both clear on what the issue is and what needs to change. So involve the other person, to ensure you're both on the same page. They may even have ideas on how to resolve the issue. So let's see how Sofia could have done a better job giving feedback to Jack. SOFIA: The report is late, Jack. But if you can get it done by Friday, I can work with sales to make it okay. JACK: Friday…how can I get it done by Friday? [Jack is concerned.] SOFIA: Hey, we can make this work. How about…skipping the status meeting? JACK: I could do that… SOFIA: That'll give you most of Thursday morning. And I can fill you in afterwards. JACK: Okay. [Sofia and Jack nod in agreement.] HOST: A better outcome, right? This time around, Sofia wasn't just focused on the problem. She showed empathy and kept her own emotions in check. Sure…she was still dead set on sorting out the problem, but she actively involved Jack in coming up with a solution too. That's smart negotiating. By including him, her feedback immediately becomes less accusatory and more supportive – which is win-win. So when delivering feedback, remember you're talking to a person with feelings, but don't let it distract you from your goal. By sticking to the facts with empathy and respect, you can ensure everyone walks away from the conversation with clarity on what needs to happen. That way, the problem won't stand a chance next time. Let's review what you learned in this course. When communicating with others, let your intention influence your communication method; think about how your audience affects how you communicate; e-mail the right people at the right time, ensuring that your message is clear and well-written; write brief and properly-structured e-mails; connect with your audience when communicating face-to-face by demonstrating authenticity; and be sensitive and empathetic when giving feedback.
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