Communication, a complex topic about which so much has been said. Business communication brings that complexity to a whole new level when there is often times, millions of dollars at stake. Communicate effectively and the sky is the limit. Communicate poorly and you can potentially sabotage work that took years to accomplish.

It is a broad topic but at its core, it really comes down to two simple words that should characterize the way you interact with others. If it does not, you are doing it wrong. Those two words? 

Opt. In.

In other words, don't force your agenda on your audience, let them opt into the communication on their time and based on their needs. Follow that one simple rule and you will instantly see favorable results. Here are a few examples.

Facebook Groups, Think Before Acting.

I have said it before and I will say it again. How the executive team at Facebook thought this was a good idea is beyond me, but just because you can do something, does not mean you should.

Adding me to your Facebook group without my permission or explicit request, or put another way, opting me into your group is not only bad etiquette, it is the fastest way to get me to opt out, not only for now, but for any time in the future. 

Instead of forcing me to get your group's notifications by opting me in, here is an idea. How about you create an incentive for me to join? Maybe produce content so good, that I will want to opt in? Either way, let me opt in or I will be the first to opt out.

WhatsApp Groups, Not Many Things More Obnoxious.

No one is claiming you had bad intentions. In fact, you probably had the purest intentions when you added me to that WhatsApp group along with 300 other people. You genuinely believed I would be interested in getting push notifications every three and a half seconds notifying me what all other members of the group are having for lunch.

My advice? Don't. Not only is this aggressive behavior but it is the epitome of ineffective. You are again, opting me into your communication without my consent and bombarding me with notifications that are most likely irrelevant to me or what I am currently focused on. 

Instead, send me a message, ask me if I would like to receive communication on the topic and allow me to opt in. 

Promotional Emails and Phone Calls Can Compete for the Big Prize.

Your email list and newsletter might be the most exciting marketing initiative you pulled off this year, but that by no means gives you the right to subscribe me to your email list without my consent. I am not referring to the legal aspects of opting me in, I am talking about the marketing effectiveness, or lack thereof of such behavior.

The same is true for business calls. By emailing me to coordinate and schedule a call, you are allowing me to opt into the call. By finding my phone number on the internet somewhere and calling me because you decided that now is when you want to talk, you are in essence opting me in against my will. Not ok and quite frankly, highly unprofessional. 

The rule here is actually fairly straight forward. You have your needs, your goals, your KPIs, and the only one who cares about them is you. Well, you and your manager. Don't kid yourself that the person you are adding to your email list without their permission cares that you need to show your boss how the list is growing. Instead of thinking of your needs when communicating, think of the needs of the person on the other end. What are they doing right now? Do they want to be called, added to your Facebook or WhatsApp group right now? If not, your one and only focus should be to change that. Make them want to opt in and that is the secret to it all.

Published on: Dec 20, 2018
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.