Gina asks, “Hi Beth, any tips for simplicity when crafting email communication or when communicating ideas verbally?”

The two most important things are to be straight and to be clear.

  1. Be Straight

    When I was first married I communicated mainly by hinting. Yes, that was frustrating. Especially when communicating with the male species, hinting is not optimal. “It’s hot in here,” doesn’t necessarily mean someone is going to turn on a fan. “Could you please turn on the fan for me?” works much better. Even if they say no, then you can get up and turn on the fan instead of waiting for someone to get the hint.

    Don’t think, “If they loved me, they would just know what I want.” That’s a lovely sentiment but not based in reality. Someone may not be able to read your mind but that doesn’t mean they don’t love you. Experiment with assuming they love you and try asking for what you want. You may be pleasantly surprised.

    If you want to cancel something, cancel it without being wishy-washy. I much prefer people that say, “I think I am ready to go on my own without coaching,” then people that just stop paying and showing up for calls. The second way wastes my time and energy. The first lets us create a plan for them to start being accountable to themselves and we can get complete.

    If someone asks you to do something you don’t want to, but you say yes anyway, you become resentful. This does not make for a good relationship. Be honest. Most people prefer you being honest with them because a lot of people aren’t. People are tired of games and having to guess what people really think. Be real and you get real relationships.

    There is no reason you can’t be honest and kind. You can practice tact. Each person responds differently so you may need different approaches. “This sounds like a wonderful program. And I have hit my maximum projects right now. I wish you the best with this.” “I have appreciated working with you. And I have decided to go with someone (closer, more available in my time frame). I will be on the look out for people that are your perfect fit so I can refer them to you.” “Since I value our marriage so much, I need to let you know that I need a few hours to myself every week because I am feeling frazzled. How can we work that out?”

    Don’t assume you know what other people are thinking. If you are unsure, ask them. If you didn’t understand their question, ask them. Let people know it is safe for them to be honest and straight with you as well. (That means no flying off the handle, acting like a martyr or giving the silent treatment.)

  2. Be Clear

    This requires you to know exactly what you want before you can convey it to someone else. Before you talk/call/email stop for a second to see what you need from this exchange or what you want to communicate. Then say or write it with the fewest words possible that still show the meaning.

    Often people start talking or writing something, but they go into tangents until the real message is obscured.

    Usually it’s best to keep to one action request per email, but if there is more then make sure you number the action requests.

    Put the action in the subject line:

    To Approve: Newsletter for Thursday

    To Review and Sign off on by Friday: Acme Project Plan

    RSVP: Daniel’s Graduation Party June 18

    Have Betty pick out birthday dinner for upcoming visit

    Need Marie’s phone number

    FYI Only: July 2 Knitting Group notes

    Before sending an email, quick re-read it to make sure it is clear and straight. Ask yourself if the person would have more questions after reading it. A few seconds of re-reading can save many back and forth emails.

    If it’s something that requires a lot of back and forth a call or instant message is better than email.

    Think before diving into communication so you can be as clear, straight and effective as possible.

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4 comments

  • Jennifer

    Thank for this excellent straightforward and clear post!

    I would add, when communicating with others, believe them when they answer your question. This is on my mind tonight because I have a houseguest. She called and asked if she could stay with me, because she has a very early appointment on my side of town tomorrow. I thought it over and replied that it would work- I would be busy today, but since she didn’t need me, per se, only my extra space, then it shouldn’t be a problem.

    All well and clear, I thought. But since she has arrived, she has initiated 3 separate conversations in which she has asked me to confirm yet again that she is not inconveniencing me. Quite frankly, if it had been that inconvenient, I would have said no to her request. However, I feel it is rude for her to make me continually reassure her of that.

    Just believe me, stay the night, get up early and move on. Exactly as we discussed and agreed.

    Anyway, thank you Beth and Internet for allowing me to clear my head here this evening!

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