1. Write long, edit short.
“I didn't have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” So said Mark Twain, and it still holds true today (just replace "letter" with "email").
It's quicker and easier to send a long message than a short one. But for the reader or listener, the opposite holds true. If you want people to actually read what you send or listen to what you say, you have to do the heavy lifting for them.
Take a moment to edit it before you hit send. Say "because" instead of "due to the fact that." Use "When would you like this by?" not "I was just wondering if you had a timeline for the delivery of this project."
You can still be polite and friendly - but you don't have to be fawning or verbose. Free up your audience to focus on the content of your message rather than its delivery.
Too busy still? Staff it out to Hemingway.
2. Get to the point.
What's the ask of your email? Is that clear from the first line, or better yet, from the subject? If not, take a moment to move it up and make it clear. The more work the reader has to do to figure out your ask, the less likely they are to stay engaged and respond.
The same goes for verbal communication. Ask your question then give (a little bit of) the background. If you start with too much context, your listener will have zoned out before you've reached your point.
3. Tailor to your audience.
It's great that your product saves money. But if you're pitching to an engineer, they're more likely to care about its reliability and the fact it elicits fewer calls to tech support than they are the bottom line.
Before you frame a message, first establish whom you are trying to reach. Tailor your content to their concerns, not your own or anyone else's.
4. Listen before you speak.
What do you learn when you're the only person talking? Nothing. We all talk more than we listen, but with two ears and one mouth, we'd perhaps do well to reverse that ratio.
Any good communicator (or salesperson) knows that if you can get the other person to do most of the talking, you'll set yourself up for success.
Listening isn't easy - especially with so many distractions making it increasingly hard to focus on a single thing. But if you can block out the noise and actively listen to your client, boss, partner, or friend, you'll reap the rewards of being engaged. And you'll be remembered for it.
5. Ask questions.
Don't be afraid to ask for a rephrase if you don't understand something. Combined with strong listening, judicious use of questioning shows that you care and helps you to learn. Well, depending on what you ask, that is.
Use questions to drill deeper and to make the best possible use of your time - and theirs.
6. Don't reply-all to company-wide emails. Everybody hates that.
Do you have any tips for communicating well? Get in touch and we'll share the best ones.
Photo credit: Thanks to Bob AuBuchon for the use of this image.