Five Questions to Ask Before You Hit Send

§ June 25th, 2010 § Filed under communication, writing § Tagged , , , , , , , , , , § No Comments

“When I get ready to talk to people, I spend two-thirds of the time thinking what they want to hear and one-third thinking about what I want to say.” – Abraham Lincoln

One of the biggest communications problems is the lack of complete information. This results in a slew of additional back-and-forth emails, voice and text messages until the full information is received and acknowledged.

How much time do you spend having to get additional information when someone has sent you an email or left a message on your voice mail? Wouldn’t it save time if the pertinent information was included in the original message?

The easy way to make sure you are communicating complete information is to ask yourself a few questions:

Who? Who is the intended recipient? If it is written, who else might end up reading it? Who else needs this information?

What? What is the reason for the message? If it’s an email, make sure the subject reflects the content. If you are leaving a voice mail, leave enough information so that the recipient can respond.

Where? When? If you are sending information about an event, be sure to include the location and the day and time. If you are requesting information, be sure to specify when you need it. “As soon as possible,” “quickly,” “immediately,” and “in the next few days” mean different things to different people. Be specific.

Why? Explain your need for the particular information so that the recipient has some context.

How? How do you want the information delivered? Do you want a phone call? Or is postal mail appropriate? How do you want a task completed? Have you provided enough specific information that the recipient will understand exactly what you are asking? How will this message be received? Have you been diplomatic? Have you been too diplomatic?

You won’t need to answer all the questions every time you send a message, but it’s a good practice to simply read through your message and run through these questions. It’s a first step toward becoming an effective communicator. The truly gifted communicators follow Lincoln’s ratio.

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