Communication is so, so important with everyone in our lives. Our friends, family members, bosses, team members, and of course our clients.
Recently one of our clients over at Pro Website Creators said the following:
“Dave… you really are a star. It’s so wonderful (easy, efficient, clear!) to work with you.”
So why did she say that?
Could it be that our communication is top-notch?
In a recent team meeting with our VAs, we posted the question, “What are the key components to clear communication?”
We looked at the details of how we communicated to the client that caused her to say those nice words.
Then we got to work defining it for us.
And it just so happened that one of Larry’s FLASHPOINTS for the week was appropriate.
The Best Ways to Clear Communication
Here is the FLASHPOINT that related to the discussion:
With so much of our communication and socializing happening online these days, how do we ensure our messaging is most effective? No doubt, email communications can increase efficiencies, but remember the good old days? If you wanted to speak to someone on the other side of the office, you got up and walked there. Set the standard for others to emulate—talk to people face-to-face when it’s important, and encourage your team to do the same. Why? Well, have you noticed that sometimes emailing works against you by poorly relaying tone and slowing down the communication process? More face-to-face talks and actual phone calls could help teammates, family members, and clients build a relationship with you, instead of their computer monitors. How effectively do you communicate?
Given the above, and our team discussion, after a while, we decided to an organization our thoughts using the WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHEN, WHY, and HOW method of breaking down any topic into its parts.
One of the problems we have with communication is we want to talk to everyone the same way based upon how we want to be talked to.
That’s a big no-no.
Because some people want the details, others just want the high-level info.
Thus, it’s important to know something about the person with which we’re communicating.
A friend of mine, whenever I ask him a question, he’ll not just answer the question, but tell you all about the background, and 20 things related to the question that I normally don’t want to know.
I feel like yelling at him and saying, “JUST GIVE ME THE ANSWER THAT I WANT, AND IF I WANT TO KNOW MORE I’LL ASK!”
Do they want details? Facts? Stories? A quick summary?
It also makes a difference if you’ve known them for a while or just for a few minutes. Asking about their family is always good but you may want to ask the question with context. Simply asking “how’s your family” is OK to start but as you get to know the person, asking “how is Margaret liking retirement these days?” is much more personal.
Understanding the subject of the conversation is important, what you’re asking about, but it goes deeper.
Be clear in your mind what it is that you want from the person to whom you’re communicating if anything.
Do you want a decision? Ideas? Just their general thoughts?
A way to frame it in your mind is to ask yourself “What is the Call-To-Action” for this conversation?
It may just be connecting with someone, or it could be a specific outcome.
For example, in our team meetings, what I want is two things:
- to connect with each other personally to make it easier to work together
- to make sure we’re all rowing in the same direction
The answer to WHERE may seem a little surprising, but it boils down to asking yourself the question
“Where do I need you to deliver what I’m asking you to give me?”
If you’re asking someone to do something, or if there’s a specific Call-To-Action, it’s helpful to specify where they are to deliver it.
Some examples may help:
- If you’re asking them to send you a file, should they put it in dropbox, email it to your, text it to you, or put it in your project management software?
- If you’re asking them to make a decision, do you want it written, by email, or pen/paper?
- If you’re asking them to pay you money, where do you want them to pay you? On your website, Venmo, PayPal, etc.?
Is time-critical? You should add the timeframe of when you need what you’re asking for. If you don’t, who knows when they will deliver it?
Simply ask something like “Please get back to us by no later than this Wednesday so that we can stay on schedule with the project.”
Or maybe it’s just a casual conversation over lunch or dinner, and you can go into more details on something, versus if you’re on a quick emergency 15-minute call with a client.
Also, what’s helpful is if you’re anticipating going over the budgeted time for your communication, ask the other party’s permission to keep going after or wrap up in your allotted time. For example, ask “Hey Susan, I noticed we’ve only got 5 minutes left in our time together, and I have another meeting right after ours, so we need to start wrapping up, or schedule another time to meet.” Or “Hey Susan, I noticed we’ve only got 5 minutes left in our time together, but I’m OK to keep going afterwards for another 10 minutes if you’re good too.”
It’s very helpful to add the WHY in the communication. If you can’t articulate the why behind something, then why in the heck are you doing it? Or asking someone else to do that?
A great way to add they why onto communication is to append your request with the words “so that” or “because” and fill in the blank.
For example, “Hey John, I need you to give me a picture of you and it needs to be at least 1200 pixels wide SO THAT your bio matches everyone else on the page.”
It really helps to do this with your VAs and team members so that they know the reason behind a task and can internalize it for themselves and adjust their output accordingly. (get what I did there? See the “so that” in the sentence?)
How do you want them to respond back to you?
Or is there some specific way that you want them to execute on that delivery?
Words like “Tell me” or “Show me” or “Send me a quick email” go a long way in clear communication.
If one of our VAs has a problem, often I’ll ask, “Can you share your screen and show me?” Just them showing me what’s going on benefits our communication in so many ways.
When at all possible, ask someone to show you the problem. Because
- If you can duplicate the problem, it can more easily be solved
- By showing and talking about it, solutions will almost always appear
- It eliminates a lot of back and forth questioning
Other quick advice:
- When communicating with clients, quick response time is great when they ask a question or relate a concern, but it must be done according to the expectations you’ve set up. Meaning what is the turnaround time promised? In any case, a good way to do this is to respond quickly with “we’ll get back to you in the next day” if it will take a little bit to respond
- Have a clear purpose - keep in mind you’re likely solving a specific issue or trying to reach a goal
- For email, the subject line should contain purpose, such as “Approval needed to move forward with your project.”
- For email, keep them to one subject discussed per email. If you have multiple subjects, consider separate emails because we scan emails and a long email can easily get ignored.
So keep this framework and tips in mind when you’re communicating not just to your VAs, but to everyone!