Professional Communication Rules People Often Forget

My double major in Marketing and Professional writing has exposed me to two very different worlds that adhere to the same misconception: people who are good at writing aren’t good at business and vice versa. It’s something that has plagued my education for the last four years, and is something I whole heartedly disagree with. Regardless, I have come across several things that people in both worlds-writing and marketing-commonly forget to do…even though they seem like common sense.

1). Phone call Etiquette

  • In a world where texting, blogging, emails and tweets have become commonplace, many people are growing increasingly uncomfortable with telephone conversation-the actual verbal interaction. As a result some people overcompensate and try to sound perky or excited, which in all reality can be a little overwhelming. All that’s necessary is a smile throughout the conversation or while leaving a voicemail, it makes you sound more pleasant and is less overbearing.
  • Multitasking (thanks technology) has become an almost addictive behavior (one I admit to participating in). It is seen in lecture halls, meetings, hallways and dinner conversations. However, it’s extremely noticeable on the phone. Don’t multitask during a phone-based conversation, it’s noticeable, rude and implies that what’s being discussed isn’t important to you.
  • The mute button is invisible to some people. Although on many conference calls the administrator mutes the call, some don’t, in which case every chip-eating-crunch, every text typed, every sniffle and every keyboard click is audible. Mute your phone during conference calls-it can always be taken off if you want to contribute.

2). Email Basics

  • Fill in the subject line. Not only does it prepare the recipient for what he or she is about to read, but it ensures that your email is read. If you’re skimming your inbox for important emails, is “No Subject” going to seem that important? Probably not.
  • When someone has been CC’d or there are multiple people included in the thread, hit “reply to all” not just “reply”. This minimizes confusion and maximizes participation.
  • Writing has the disadvantage of not being able to incorporate tone of voice and body language. As a result some innocent things can come off harsh/blunt/cold. Include manner-oriented words like please, thank you; you’re welcome etc. to help not only create a polite message but come off in a friendly manner
  • As cute as they are when they come from a significant other or a friend, smiley faces and other emotion icons are not professional and shouldn’t be included in a business-based email.

3). General Communication

  • Before contacting someone, or after the initial contact, see if that person has a way they prefer to be contacted. Personally I would rather text and email than talk on the phone, but my almost-60-year-old Dad would be offended if I did anything but call or come over in person.
  • Let people finish their sentence, it’s just common courtesy.
  • If you need to interrupt say something like “Please allow me to stop you there”, or my professor’s personal favorite “So if I hear you correctly what you’re saying is…” or “Can I repeat that back to you to make sure I understand you correctly…”
  • Actually follow up when you say you will. It’s not only annoying to the other person when you don’t, all it does is reflect badly upon you if you don’t.
  • Before initiating a conversation see if it is a good time. Dropping into someone’s office could interrupt a project, could catch them at a bad time, and has the potential to be interrupted by something else (like a ringing phone or an appointment). Just ask, they won’t bite.
  • Lastly, and this is my biggest pet peeve, when you’re in a meeting or a group or even when being spoken to directly in a one-on-one dynamic don’t check your phone…it’s not disguisable, it’s offensive and there is nothing that can’t wait an extra five minutes or an hour. If it’s an emergency, say so, otherwise just wait.

All it comes down to is be respectful and commit your attention to one thing at a time, especially if that thing is a person and can tell when you’re not. Effective communication is what will help you deliver your message, create a favorable reputation and make your day a lot less frustrating.

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