How often have you chatted to someone and found yourself somehow mimicking their communication style in order to make them (or yourself) feel comfortable and on the same level? If your answer is “never” then may I politely suggest that perhaps you need to address this further? Because this is a very important communication skill that ensures your relationships with the people you meet (or want to do business with) are positive and in sync.
Developing good communication skills is about knowing when to “stick the plumb in and when to pull the plumb out.”
If you are preparing for an important meeting – say, pitching a proposal to a high-powered executive of a large corporation – are you not likely to put a little more “polish” into your presentation than you would have if you were pitching to a group of self-or soon-to-be-employed 21 year olds, fresh out of University? Or to a group of Mumpreneurs (at home mums, working on a business plan, and seeking your help/services?).
We usually customise our appearance to suit the audience, but also customise how we speak, write and generally communicate with that audience too – whether we’re consciously aware of it or not. In our daily dealings with people – be they clients, potential clients, customers, associates, colleagues, friends, family etc – we subconsciously adapt our communication styles to suit. We certainly don’t speak the same in an email to a friend as we would to a business associate or potential client. But have you looked at how you communicate in general? Are you considered by others to be quite short, abrupt and perhaps even a little abrasive? Perhaps you’re perceived as being almost arrogant or rude (because generally you don’t even seem to have the time to give the courtesy of a reply to most forms of written communication?). Perhaps you’re perceived as being friendly, casual and approachable? Or down-to-earth and everyone’s “mate”? Maybe you prefer the phone to email or text? Or text rather than phone? Or email rather than letter-writing? We all have our own preferences for communication and we all need to respect the fact that everyone else has a desired method also. BUT…and here’s the thing…
No matter which form of communication you prefer, we all need to understand the ETIQUETTE associated with each, especially in the workplace.
The rules go something like this…
- If someone emails you, you should email back.
- If someone phones you, you should phone back.
- If someone texts you, you text back.
- If someone writes to you, you write back.
There are of course exceptions to every rule, but in general if you want to be known for your wonderful people/communication skills and ability to connect with others, then ask yourself how you measure up.
But of course, timing is everything….
While we all may consider ourselves “busy” there are always varying degrees of this and no one should ever think their time is the most precious and the thing everyone else should be considering over their own busy schedule. No one should ever be too busy to give the courtesy of a quick response; an acknowledgment that you respect the other person’s time. Try something along the lines of “Thanks for your email – will look into it further and get back to you ASAP!”. Or a quick text to say “Got your message – be in touch soon”. Or a return phone call to say you got their message and will chat soon, when you’re in a better place to speak.
And need I remind anyone about the importance of the email “Read Receipt”? Some people avoid sending these in response to a received message, perhaps fearing that that will mean they have to respond to it instantly too? The basis for that little e-tool is just to let the sender know that their email has in fact reached it’s desired destination. It doesn’t mean you have to answer it immediately!
Speaking of which, do you actually know what is considered to be the appropriate response-time? The correct “etiquette” when replying to a business email? 24 hours. That’s not to say you have to give a full report/response, but where a read-receipt is not requested at least give the courtesy of a few lines acknowledging your receipt of their email and your probable turn-around/response time from then onwards. If someone speaks to you, you wouldn’t simply ignore them. It’s just as rude to do so by email or any other form of electronic communication.
While I’ve been “styling” for years, I always stress the point that I am not so much a Fashion Stylist as an Image Consultant. Why? Because having true style is more than knowing what clothes look good or being able to pull off an on-trend outfit. One of the main topics I’m asked to speak about in my Corporate Presentations and Keynotes is the importance of paying just as much attention to our communication style as we would our external presentation (or our “packaging” as I like to call it). If you’re comfortable with your own fashion-styling skills, but still don’t find that people are not quite warming to you, or that you don’t seem to be in sync with your associates or colleagues, perhaps it’s time to look at your layers and to go one deeper than your clothing choices.