The DOs and DON’Ts of Business Communication

By Bonnie Sokoloff

 In the course of doing daily business, think about how much of our interaction involves, even depends upon, communication in one form or another. Yet many of us don’t even think about the ‘messages we send’ in the messages we are sending.

How we communicate is as important as the information we are communicating, and it’s not a cliché to say that doing it wrong could be a deal breaker.

Follow these basic rules to maximize the effectiveness (and minimize the offensiveness) of your business communications:

1. Respect your audience’s time. That’s really the fundamental principle of communication in a business context. Assume that everyone is as busy as you are and if you want to capture their attention, you will need to make sure you address that. If a major explanation is not required, don’t schedule a meeting just to review information you plan to provide in hard copy format. Just send the presentation with a request for feedback. If you are sending an email that has already been replied to and forwarded a few times, don’t just hit the forward button again—take the time to summarize the information and put it in a fresh email.

Speaking of email… the rules around communicating via email can provide enough content for several articles, but for the sake of brevity, I’ll just concentrate on a few key points.

2. Get to the point. By the time they finish reading the subject line, your recipients should have a good idea of what the message within the email is about. Lead off with the most important information so if they aren’t able to read the entire email right away, they will know whether or not they need to revisit it later.

3. Know when to pick up the phone. Email is great for quick and easy messages, but when things get complicated, especially if trouble is brewing, you need to abandon the computer and make a call instead. There are too many variables, such as tone, that can easily be misinterpreted via email. You can prevent the situation from escalating and work toward an effective resolution by initiating a phone conversation at the right time.

4. The “Reply to All” button is not a toy. It is a tempting option, but before you press that button, pause to consider if everyone who received the initial email really needs to hear everyone’s take on the issue. If you are at all in doubt, don’t do it. If the original sender thinks others need to see the replies, allow them to do the forwarding.

You may have read the above tips and found yourself thinking: “Duh. This is just common sense.” And you are right. But in the midst of our busy days, common sense sometimes falls by the wayside. The main thing you need to take away is, no matter how busy you are, take the time to think about the whats, hows and whos of your business communications.

BONNIE SOKOLOFF currently works as an Internal Communications Specialist for Staples Canada. She has over 15 years of experience with copywriting, editing and print production.

By Adam

April 06, 2011