Know Your Audience!
Effective communication is an essential piece of any good relationship, no matter what kind of relationship it is. People with whom we interact at home, at the office, at school, at church, or anywhere else have different personalities, motivations, goals, etc.; but we must learn to work together despite differences in order to get things done. One of the most important things to remember is to always be aware of not only what you say but also how and why it is being said. We must all recognize that effective communication happens differently, depending on our audience.
No matter the environment, effective use of the tone and style of the words we choose is absolutely necessary. Think back on the last time you had a disagreement with someone over text or email. Honestly, how completely impossible is it sometimes to interpret the intent of a text message? Sarcasm, anger, happiness- truly the entire spectrum of emotions- are difficult to convey. Emojis were created to “help” with that problem- but now that they are often used ironically- they’re not very helpful either. Make absolutely sure that there is no ambiguity in the electronic messages you send- the damage can be tough to repair…
Which brings me right to my next point- the method of communication used must also be tailored to the individual or group with whom we are working. Phone calls may be best for some, while email is ideal for others. There may even still be people out there who respond to a written note dropped in the mail! The important thing here is not to make any assumptions about the best practice for your target audience- you may have to ask them! (Or engage in some old-fashioned trial-and-error!) I have seen many endeavors fail or not come to full fruition because of the unwillingness to adjust to others’ methods of communication.
Have you ever had an interaction go south from the beginning because of the way someone addressed you? Consider the manner of address you are using when you speak to people. I find it a good rule to always err on the side of a more respectful, formal mode to start and then allow the person to let me know if I may use something more familiar. For example, while working I always start with Mr./Mrs./Dr./Miss; and allow the client to correct me if they’d like to be addressed differently. At church, I will place “Miss” or “Mr.” in front of the first names of other adults (especially those older than myself), to convey the respect as well as the familiarity in our relationship.
Age differences are also important to keep in mind. It is important to consider that within the workplace hierarchy, there are often instances where a younger person may hold a position of greater authority than an older person. These situations do not have to result in difficulty if both sides are willing to do basic things to ensure that respect is shown both ways. Employee/client relations can also benefit from remembering this. I cannot tell you how many times I successfully closed business in the past with people significantly older than myself by working diligently to prove that I knew my stuff and would work just as hard for them.
We live in a society that is always crying out in offense. Being patient with each other and aware of how we are communicating, as well as showing some patience and grace with one another can be an effective antidote to the problem. Keeping these things in mind can be the difference between closing a sale or gaining a friend- and NOT doing these things. And if all else fails, employing the golden rule and simply treating others the way you’d like to be treated won’t steer you wrong.