George Bernard Shaw pointed out, "The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place."
So often, people just assume that their efforts in communication have been well received or received at all. So much has changed in communication this century that sometimes it’s hard to keep up with generational adjustments in both technology and etiquette. Whether you are responsible for just your own communication or that of the whole office, your productivity is at risk if you're not aware of the pitfalls.
Since communicating across generations is harder now than ever, I interviewed Ronnell Richards, president and founder of the award-winning telecommunications company RD Direct. Richards is always helping his clients solve communications issues both in hardware and practice. Together we identified the following checklist of costly mistakes that can put good communication in danger.
1. Using voicemail.
Few people listen to voicemail anymore. These days, most people find caller-ID sufficient, and get annoyed to have to check a voicemail that simply says: "Oh hey, it’s me, call me back." There are plenty of text and chat apps to choose from. If Coca-Cola can dump their voicemail company-wide, you shouldn't need it either.
2. Making people bored.
Is your communication truly necessary? People are moving faster than ever in the tech era and don't have time for mindless, useless information. Think about what you are going to say and why you are going to say it. Then communicate it with energy and purpose.
3. Shunning new technology.
Richards makes clear that maintaining an "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" mentality will only make you fall behind in an incredibly fast-moving market. If your phone or telecom systems are more than three or four years old, they won’t support a modern approach. Get up-to-date. Even Lindsey Graham finally dumped the flip phone.
4. Sending emails in haste.
Texts and emails last forever, so be very careful about what you write before you press send or you'll be sorry (just ask Hillary). Gmail now has an "undo" feature that delays your message by a few seconds so you can--hopefully--stop it before it's too late.
5. Driving while intexticated.
As a New Yorker, my risk is limited to bumping into a tourist when I am texting while walking. But every time I travel and have to drive, I see the crazies who need to have their data hit while behind the wheel. There are way too many close calls out there. Don’t end up a statistic.
6. Acting as a tech guinea pig.
Richards warns that as an early adopter you might have the latest technology and the bragging rights to boost your ego, but you're also going to experience the highest rates of equipment and technology failure for the most money. Let the status hunters waste their hard-earned dollars, and get the newest and latest after the bugs have been worked out.
7. Using expensive PBX phone systems.
The days of big boxes in your phone closet are gone. Cloud-hosted phone systems like AT&T Office@Hand are feature-rich, easily manageable, and affordable. There is no maintenance needed and no need to call out an expensive phone vendor to manage the system.
8. Being long-winded.
Get to the point already. Time is money. Enough said.
9. Buying brand-new devices.
Refurbished devices have been tested, reset to new state, and are two-thirds the price. Many have better warranties than the new product.
10. Using fax machines.
PDF, please. You won’t need a special phone line and most people keep their records in email, anyway. You'll save trees and find everything you need much easier. There are free scanning apps or you can even take a picture with your phone and send via email.
11. Being obtuse.
Think through what you are trying to communicate and say it simply. The people who sound the smartest are the ones who get their point across.
12. Missing the IP in VoIP.
Richards constantly has to remind his clients that the most important component in successful VoIP communication is quality and sufficient internet bandwidth. No one wants to hear static and echo when on a call. It makes you sound cheap and unprofessional.
13. Showing brand loyalty.
So what if you like Apple? It could be that Android is a better fit for your needs. Sure, AT&T gave you a good deal last year, but T-Mobile might give you a better deal today. Today's telecom business is about portability and the best deal you can get.
14. Replying to all on BCC.
You can argue that BCC is an underhanded form of communication, but it is a reality. If someone sends you a message BCC, it’s because they don’t want the other receivers to know you got it. Show respect and stay invisible.
15. Using the wrong tool in the wrong way.
Richards points out that there are lots of new hardware and software tools for communication today, which can get confusing. But each tool has it's own benefit. Email is great for long-form, permanent communication. Text and chat are great for short and urgent needs. Phone calls are still the best way to communicate sensitive news or information. Know the difference and use them properly.
16. Overusing group text.
Nothing is more irritating than having your phone buzz and beep while others have a long text conversation that doesn’t include you. Do everyone a favor and keep the communication between the people who are communicating.
17. Expecting that people know how to communicate with you.
Just because you like to use Facebook messenger doesn’t mean everyone else does. Don’t make people chase you. Pick a way and let others know your habits, and be flexible with theirs as well. Your time and theirs are both valuable.