I’m a bad listener. I need to hear things so many times before the real magnitude sinks in. I try to listen, it’s just hard. Phones, emails, funny cat pictures. It’s no wonder I struggle.
Outside of the internal struggle against politeness, I really hate missing out on interesting conversations. Especially the beginning. The other day a colleague wasn’t included at the start of an email thread. We kept trying to re-add him but he continued getting dropped off when people replied to the original mails. I felt bad and he missed a lot of that conversation and it was hard for him to keep up.
These two problems have made me re-think the importance of communication. More specifically, the structure of it.Some of the best advice I’ve received on writing emails was to follow a simple format:
- Sentence containing the core message.
- Paragraph explaining and outlining relevant details
- Sentence containing the core message (reworded)
It’s time consuming and I hate writing that way, but it’s necessary and has been invaluable advice.
When I think of the problems I’ve had keeping up, it almost always could have been solved in that format. If meetings started that way and ended in this format, I would have better knowledge. I would know what I should know, the depth I can choose.
But I don’t run meetings this way. It’s time consuming! It requires planning! Forget about the time it will save, that’s in the future. I want to save time now. Except I really don’t, because it creates wasted time.
Instead of spending a few minutes up front on this, I flounder (or worse, cause other people to flounder) for hours! This is a debt that I create and must be paid back, but it’s hard to get out of this habit.
When there is a habit of creating time debts, it’s to gain time now at the expense of the future. Simply repeating the core messages when we communicate can drastically reduce this debt. To further maximize the impact it isn’t enough to just repeat it, it must be reworded to seem new and to appeal to the differences in the audience.
What is clear to me in one form is ambiguous in another. Hit me both ways and see what sticks.