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Gadgetry SOS? Two Rules in Response

By Sherri Petro (1149 words)
Posted in Communication Skills on July 21, 2013

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By Sherri Petro, President of VPI Strategies & California Miramar University (CMU) Professor

Hey Dick Tracy, Maxwell Smart and Inspector Gadget, I have a beef with you.  I thought all this gadgetry was supposed to help us communicate better and solve problems.  Why are we still having communication issues?  User error, you say?  It’s not the gadget itself, it’s how we use it?


Here’s the tip of our very large communication iceberg. We leverage technology for a myriad of uses:   

  • Customer interfacing

  • Global connection

  • Mass distribution of information

  • One-on-one bursts

  • Finding locations

  • Confirmation of activities

  • Remote working


In our highly mobile environment, communication is as important as ever but it is obvious we need some rules for our technology use regardless of what we use it for.  Let’s look at two simple etiquette rules. Benefit of the doubt is given here that you will obey your local laws when it comes to appropriate technology use!



Communication Etiquette Rule #1 - It’s About Them

Communication has multiple parts – sender, receiver, message and feedback.  As the sender, what is your objective?  Choose the message that allows you to achieve that objective in the simplest and least confusing way possible for the receiver.  Think with them in mind.


Ask: What am I trying to achieve with my receiver? 


Are you sending mixed messages and expecting a clear response? Amazingly, this is not just about you. Communication only happens when the receiver gets the message. Otherwise, silly, we call that a miscommunication, i.e. you missed communicating!


Ask:  Am I making choices that will allow my objective to happen?


Hey, hot guy in the security line at the airport. That was not the time to have that crucial conversation with the subordinate who needed redirection.  Really bad form, bud.  I know we are mobile but let’s have a modicum of understanding of our environment.  When the powers that be say to praise in public and chastise in private, I am pretty clear that the security line falls into “not private.”


For this example, “them” takes on new meaning.  Not only is that poor for the receiver to hear since you are time –compressed and distracted, but it’s certainly not optimal for the people in line to witness. Be aware of your environment, people!


Ask: Am I choosing the best time and place to have the communication?


Deadlines are tougher to think through but shouldn’t we take time zones and styles of our receivers into consideration?  If perception is reality and our receiver’s perception is critical, why would we put our communication in jeopardy by choosing bad times and styles to communicate?  This is tough when we are working on teams with multiple time zones. Best practice? Rotate the time so the outlying offices are not the ones that get short-shrift all the time.


Ask: Am I making it easy for my receiver to respond?



Communication Etiquette Rule #2 – Choose the right vehicle


We are making some spectacularly unwise choices on the vehicles we use to communicate. Choose:


  1. Texting for short bursts of information like when you need a quick answer. Logistics?  Perfect!  Locations?  Great!  Not efficient for an entire conversation. We can’t peck as fast as we speak.


  2. For nonperformance-related conversations, use instant messaging technology when you need information.  See texting above for more.


  3. Email is great for mass distribution of info and for those not online at the same time. If online simultaneously, why not choose a vehicle that gives you instant access? Be careful of tone here. We are all very aware that tone does not translate well. It is also not the preferred vehicle if you can walk across the room and get an answer.


  4. The phone may not be the function used the most on our smart devices, but it is still a viable communication channel.  Much to our horror, technology does not always work. Pick up the phone if you are stymied or if tone is really important.  There is also merit in two-way dialogue at the same time.  Obviously, you pick up on tone!


  5. Face-to-face for all crucial conversations.  Crucial Conversations as defined by the authors of the book of the same name -- Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, Al Switzler -- have three distinguishing characteristics – strong emotions, high stakes and differing opinions. Whether you choose a web conference for remote employees or in-person face to face, it is critical to pick up cues in tough conversations like this. You need to see the nonverbal to complete the picture.  Do not, I repeat, do not try to have a performance-related conversation with any other communication vehicle unless you relish cleaning up a mess.





Communicating in our mobile environment may be more complicated, but the rules are simple.  The receiver reigns as we try to connect.  And we have the ability to choose the best vehicle for our connection -- if we are smart.  It can be a pretty simple matching game, need to vehicle!  



{#/pub/images/SherriPetro.jpg}Written by Sherri Petro, President of VPI Strategies & California Miramar University (CMU) Professor Sherri is a professor, accomplished strategist, organizational development professional and executive coach.  She consulted for 13 years in the for-profit, non-profit, and government sectors after a 16 year corporate career.  She teaches the Strategy Capstone as well as Leadership, Change Management and Business Ethics courses in CMU’s MBA program. Her current passion is educating organizations on how to increase organizational sustainability by leveraging the talents and skills of all in multi-generational workplaces. Sherri offers remedies to misunderstandings that result from different belief structures and lack of coherent communication by creating understanding and making connections at the belief level not only at the behavioral level.


Do you have a question for Sherri?  Please visit our Workplace Communication Skills Community, she will be happy to help: Ask an Expert


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