Who’s Talking?

I’m trying to understand the diminishing communication that is going on these days. I don’t mean the quantity of communication opportunities, but the reduction in ‘real’ communication. I see e-mails go unanswered and those promised phone calls never occur, all without an explanation. Even the common courtesy of acknowledging a response to an ‘urgent’ request seems to be hard to get. So, what’s up? I have talked with others, and I am not alone. Does this ring true with you too?

So, first let’s qualify — we are not talking about the unsolicited sales call/e-mail, but real existing professional relationships and team members. A common example is this: You get a request for information, a proposal, something IMPORTANT to the initiator, e.g. they started the conversation. I know I am obligated, or at least know it is important and courteous to respond, even if with an explanation of a push back to a later time. Something, anything, to let the other person know you ‘heard’ them. Then you send them the information as quickly as you can. Too often, what happens next? NOTHING!! No reply acknowledging the receipt, no responding to follow-up questions, no communication at all. This is what I just have a hard time understanding. The conversation is left ‘hanging’. There is really no excuse is there? Vint Cerf (one of the ‘fathers’ of the internet) said in a recent interview that there are 3 billion people with access to the internet but 4 billion have a smart phone… Is it really that difficult to hit ‘reply’?
What is getting in the way of common courtesy and professionalism? The consensus from my discussion with colleagues and friends about this comes down to ‘information overload’ and ‘problems prioritizing’. I understand, since work can get really BUSY and over scheduled. And then there are just so many e-mails that need to be reviewed. Really? Do you really have to engage with all of them, or are most of them just folks copying you on their conversation (maybe to cover their bases)?

There are REAL BENEFITS to engaging and following-through with our colleagues, clients, and vendors. Here are just a few:

1. You actually will learn something
2. You are helping someone
3. You build trust and loyalty
4. You get what you want, when you want it

So, I believe to identify the real conversations that require your engagement is critical, especially if you have initiated them. Flag them, task them with a timeline – use your technology to help prioritize. Next, it will be important to set the rules with your colleagues, clients, and vendors. How does one know if they have just been given information to keep ‘on file’, or if they need to critically review and possibly respond? I believe if someone needs to respond or review they should be in the ‘TO:’ line of the e-mail. Those who just need to keep a copy for reading when they have time, should be in the ‘CC:’ line of the e-mail.

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