Let’s face it. We are living in a new world of communication and I’m not feeling all that good about what’s happening to us.
I’m sure I don’t need to remind many of you of the days when we called people on their home phones, added our friends to a call with a “party line” or carried quarters to call our parents from the mall when it was time to pick us up. Oh, sweet nostalgia. In those times we were not as accessible to people, we had freedom and a more present life. But that was then and this is now. Today, most of us have a crack like dependency on our devices and there is not much point in trying to cure the sickness. This way of life is unlikely to change as far as I can see.
So I ask myself – how can we address the ways in which texting is f*ing things up for us – both professionally and personally? And better yet, how can we be better about connecting with people verbally…at least when it’s really important?
1. Rules of Conduct – create your own rules and try really hard to stick with them. For an example, I have a rule that if someone sends me a message that ends in a question I must answer that text within the hour. However, if I am working and trying to stay focused then I simply reply with a brief and courteous, “back to you in a bit – I’m tied up”. Professionally, since we all now communicate with our peers, bosses and clients through text we need to be meticulous with our manners. How about a rule to always address our work texts with the same courtesy we typically put into an email. Hello, thank you, your name….. I can’t believe that we send text messages to people that have no salutations and no close. This is downright sloppy of us. By ignoring messages that come through or WORSE yet, lying about not seeing them, not getting them, blah.. blah.. blah.. – we are creating crappy standards that actually make us feel badly about ourselves.
2. Spelling and Capitalization – for the love of Christmas, PLEASE stop sending professional text messages that have “i” instead of “I” and all the rest of the crazy shortcut, made up text words. If you are communicating with anyone that can be categorized as a professional connection, I don’t care how familiar you become with this person – spelling, caps and grammar make a giant impression. If you choose the easy road of texting as your main form of communication then please commit to a high standard. I have a client that has told me he prefers text over email because it gets to him faster. This guy starts his messages with Hello and ends every message with “Thank you, Libby” and certainly never misspells. It means something to be communicated with in this manner.
3. Know when it’s time to pick up the phone or expand into an email – quick points and follow up can be communicated by text typically without much fallout. However, when it comes to important issues – we must step it up. I recently sent someone on an interview with one of my oldest clients. This person went on the interview, spent an hour with my client and then fell off the planet. Didn’t respond to my follow up calls or emails. As a last resort, my client texted this kid and after 2 days the guy sent back a text to explain why the position wasn’t a fit. Cheese and Rice. What is happening here? If you truly can’t bring yourself to have a conversation with someone, first examine why you are hiding and then at the very least compose an email that clearly communicates your points in detail.
One of my best friends admitted that when she sees me calling she assumes something must be wrong! Why would I be CALLING her? Now, I try to make a point of calling her once a week just to make her pick up the phone and talk to me since she has admitted the phone fills her with dread. Stretch yourself. Step outside of what feels easy and convenient. I promise you, the reward will be a sense of connection and accomplishment. People need people..not just typed out words and emoticons.
Start today. Make your commitments. Experience the ways your confidence and your relationships improve by just simply getting back to the basics.