EMAIL, TEXT, CALL, FACE-to-FACE
What if I asked you, “Are you a good communicator”?
What if I asked you, “Are you a professional communicator?”
For either question:
If you answer “yes” or “yeah, I think so” – why?
If you answer “nah” or “probably not” – why?
Do you doubt your professionalism or appropriateness because you have never thought about it or paid any attention to it? If so, we can easily work on that!
The first step is easy …
decide to be intentional,
self-aware, and present.
This post is NOT a regurgitation of everything you can find on google about how to be a professional or how to communicate professionally. This post is to encourage you to be INTENTIONAL and self-aware. When we say the word “professional”, we think suit and tie with clean hair and an organized lap top bag. I am not talking about the stereotypical business man or woman. I am talking about presenting yourself and communicating with other HUMAN BEINGS in a genuine manner. Because when you are intentional and aware of HOW you are communicating, you will become memorable. And memorable affects your … wait for it … REPUTATION.
This post is for those …
… who tend to be awkward and quiet in social settings
… who tend to be loud and dominate the conversation
… who end up saying the wrong thing or forget to say the right thing
… who hate networking
… who are young and haven’t experienced enough mature, professional interactions
… who are focused on what others think of them
The list goes on … the point is that no matter if you are confident or shy, experienced or inexperienced, we all need these reminders.
I am breaking your daily communication into 3 main areas:
1. Text and Email
2. Phone Conversations
We could talk about communicating for days, but we are going to stick to the 3 main areas and focus on a couple tips with a large dose of encouragement. Hopefully, this taste will help you in any situation as you think bigger picture (intentional, self-aware, present) and less on the specific words you are saying or not saying.
TO TEXT OR TO EMAIL … THAT IS THE QUESTION:
We need to be careful replacing email with text in our professional lives. Texting is wonderful and I use it EVERYDAY for my business. But I am also careful not to abuse texting with people. And when I feel I have abused it (texting too late or too early or too much), I apologize.
There is an universal understanding that we don’t check our emails as often as our text messages. Not everyone has their work email on their phones. Not everyone gets notifications when they have a new email.There is also an understanding that someone might not email you before 8:00am or after 5:00pm (you hope they do, but it is understood if they don’t).
Texting is different. Texting has made us more connected than ever before (which is amazing).
Texting has made us reachable 24/7 (which can be amazing). As with anything in this world, when something is taken out of context or balance it becomes negative, burdensome, annoying, etc.
The easiest tip I can share is to ASK if someone wants to be contacted via text.
And even if they say yes, you should still use email for official communication.
I have had people ask me long questions or ask about scheduling meetings and I have to ask them to email me so that I have the reminder in my email. Once you have read a text, you can’t click “Mark as Unread”!
While on the topic of asking, remember to ASK if you can share someone’s number before sharing it with someone else. An email is one thing. A phone number is the next level of privacy.
CALL ME … MAYBE:
Because text and email dominate our conversations, we often don’t take the time to call people in our personal and professional lives. I worked in a job where my boss would avoid the phone like the plague. He would email everything. It actually caused delays and confusion. Emails and texts can’t always get the point across correctly. (and emojis and exclamation points don’t make up for it!)
I want to encourage you to call more … when it is appropriate. Don’t leave everything to a text or email.This applies for both personal and professional conversations.
When something is important or time sensitive, call.
When something is sensitive and complex, call.
When you do decide to call (and it’s not a 911 emergency), start the conversation by asking them if it is a good time to talk. Ask them if they have a moment to discuss _______. Don’t assume everyone is waiting on your call. Be aware of others and their time.
If you have discussed many options and action items, do a wrap up at the end of the call so that everyone is on the same page. Be present and be productive in that conversation.
Lastly, THANK them for their time. Appreciation is never forgotten.
In-person communication is complex. I am not going to try and cover it all. I am only going to give you 5 actionable and easy tips.
It does not matter if you are a seasoned and savvy networker or college freshman nervous about their first campus career fair, these 5 tips will make you stand out in a sea of distracted, busy people. All it takes is effort. Start practicing them in every professional encounter and watch others in the way that they communicate. People watching can be educational!
1. Its all in the eyes and smile.
I know you have heard this before, but look someone in the eye and then SMILE. It promise you, smiling will soften any awkward, tense, or sensitive situation. People will open up and put down their guard.
2. Shake it like you mean it.
When you shake someone’s hand, look them in the eye. When you shake someone’s hand, be intentional. Shake it like you mean it. This applies to girls as well – shake their hand like you would hold a baby. Firm enough that you don’t drop it. Gentle enough that they don’t cry!
3. Say their name. Say their name.
Stop using the excuse, “I am horrible with names.”
Start doing small things to help you remember names. When they say their name, repeat it back to them and then say yours. Then say their name in your head 5 times while looking at them.
If you forget their name, ask them again.
If it is someone you want to connect/network with, write their name in your phone when you go to the bathroom so you can look them up on LinkedIn later.
When you leave each other, say their name again. “It was wonderful to meet you, Luke.”
Remember their name and you will become memorable.
4. Phone down. Eyes up.
Stop using your phone as a crutch. There are times when we need to be on our phones, but there are other times when we are only using it to avoid having to talk. If you struggle with your phone at meals, in meetings, while in casual conversations with people, or at home with family … put it away. Be present.
I am challenging myself in this and I am challenging you to ask 1 person to hold you accountable to this.
5. Play 20 questions.
20 questions may be excessive.
In a networking situation, I want you to get in the habit of asking questions. Use questions to create a genuine conversation and avoid heading toward the “awkward cliff” where conversations die.
Ask questions that pertain to the event or location you are at.
Ask questions about their job, their company or their industry as a whole.
Ask about their opinion of something.
Be specific in your questions. Steer clear of the general questions like “What do you like to do?”
Ask a question about something you recently read, saw, or learned. Do this so you can follow up with what you know.
If you are already connected with the person online, mention something you have seen them post.
The one thing that all of these tips and pieces of encouragement have in common ... being intentional. You don't have to be smartest, most professional, most popular, or experienced. You just have to put forth effort.