Written Communication: Slower is Better

We are reading now more than ever. Business communications, personal email, chats are replacing direct telephonic and face-to-face conversations. The asynchronous mode of communication is preferred over the more direct as it allows each party to work at their own pace. This however has raised the spectre of miscommunication and misunderstanding to an altogether high level that needs our immediate attention.
The lack of body language cues (eye contact, tone of voice) can lead to misinterpretation of written messages. The emotions and gestures of face-to-face communications are hard to represent in written text and this problem is well articulated in a recent article titled ‘Slow Down and Write Better Email’. This article on the art of responding is worth sharing with you.

We must write carefully and patiently read our own mails before hitting the ‘send’ button to verify that the intended message is conveyed across to the recipient. Writing messages with the right intonation and meaning is essential for organizations who want their team members to be effective in this world of words. Reflect on these 3 points that will make you a better communicator:

1. Reply with details

When replying to a large email one may tend to rush over long text, skipping the important points that need to be answered with greater details. Avoid being curt and stingy with expressions as it may depict a lack of interest and may hurt or confuse the recipient.

  • It is best to slow down and read the details. When responding ensure you do not omit clarity in your communication.
  • Respond to specific points of the email rather than sending back a blanket response. It shows you have invested time to understand and revert to the message.

Proofread your emails before sending and take advantage of spell check programs to send clean, unambiguous emails. People will take in what you write more seriously.

2. Be mindful of your tone

The overall attitude of a message, also known as the tone, is a powerful tool for communicating empathy. Responding to a painstakingly written email with a one-word response (seen or okay) communicates a lack of empathy.

  • Visualize the impact of your reply. Avoid using a curt or rude tone that can lower the morale of the receiver.
  • Do not respond for the heck of it if you do not have relevant points.
  • If you immediately cannot pay attention to an email, send a quick acknowledgement of having received it and inform that you plan to respond to it at a future date.

3. Talk Instead

At times we get caught up asking questions back and forth in a chat app. Instead, a simple phone call can elicit the clarification we seek. Thus, saving time and leaving no scope for doubts.

  • Upon receiving a vague text or email do not hesitate to get the person on the phone to clarify the subject. If it is a sensitive matter, a quick call will depict your concern and solve misunderstandings.
  • If more than two persons are involved, a conference call can help you get faster to the bottom of the issue than an avalanche of messages over chat.

Undoubtedly, we need to be efficient in the workplace and get things done quickly when needed. However, when it comes to written communication sometimes slower is better as it provides a permanent record of our thoughts, responses which are saved and referred to. 

Our writing reflects who we are, our organization and our professionalism - it is worth slowing down to get it right and creating a positive impression.