Is there a place where politeness and professionalism give way to old fashioned annoyance? With the best of intentions, we can mistakenly drag out our communication for too long and have people scratching their heads. What does that look like and might you be guilty of such (often unknowing) mistakes? Let’s take a look.
The endless thank you: Have you ever noticed your email back-and-forth wandering into the danger zone? After an exchange on business issues one side says, “Thank you.” You respond, “Thank you.” Then there might be a “Have a good weekend.” Then “You, too.” All good so far but be careful to not launch into “Heading for a much-needed break at the beach.” As the kids say, TMI. Too much information. Unless these are the communication threads of very close friends, be careful not to wander into providing unasked information and continuing the conversation in a way your colleague has no demonstrated interest. Business contacts suddenly dread getting into a back-and-forth with you if you are over-sharing.
The endless salutation: This point is a funny one because I just caught myself heading down this exact rabbit hole! Here is the scenario: You’ve just finished a clear, succinct business email AND THEN you launch into a too-long closing. “I really appreciate your trust and belief in my work. Thank you for your support and I look forward to our next visit…” Geez. If you do this work for a living, there’s no need to go on and on. A simple “It’s great working with you,” will do. Of course, it’s always appropriate to offer a thank you for those who support you, but no need to head into overkill territory.
The endless good-bye: A similar situation can unfold on the phone. The call is ending, but you can’t seem to land the plane: “Ok, yea, alright, so, this is good.” If you have that awkward difficulty in ending a phone conversation, work to hand the close over to the other person in the conversation. What does that sound like? A simple, “Very good, thanks Maggie.” Then, let Maggie wrap it up and you’re done. Quick, clear and it’s over.
At least with a phone conversation you can hear the other person’s voice, so you know more about the tone of the back-and-forth. Which brings me back to the email dilemma. I will say dragging things out, especially in electronic communication, can damage your credibility. But I will close with this warning from the other side of the equation. Remember, you absolutely need to respond to important emails, especially if you’ve been sent important documents, an action item list or something to do with money. Too often I’ve been surprised when I’ve seen a lot of effort put into a piece of email communication and then – nothing. Even a simple, “Got it. Traveling today but I’ll get to this tomorrow,” is helpful and lets people know you got the message. So, balance is the key and remember, making an error on either end of the spectrum can cause unintended problems.
And with that, I will say no more.
Cary Pfeffer is the founder of ClearComm Consulting, www.clear-comm.net, a Phoenix, AZ-based communications consulting firm which is helping people tell their story. He works with clients to make the most of their media and live audience communication. Email him at: firstname.lastname@example.org.