With the advent of text messages, emails, and other technology-based forms of communication, the way in which we--and our employees--read has more to do with both individual and business success than ever before. Do you read every word and pay close attention to the details and nuances, or do you fly through the information in front of you for the main idea? See what your reading style says about your chances for success.
Speed Reader. You blow through emails and pride yourself on your rapid response time--no one is faster than you. Sure, but have you ever gone back and double-checked to make sure you have not let any of the email's specific points fall through the cracks? Rapid readers may get through information quickly, but they often miss important details in their "read with speed" technique. The real estate agent representing the sellers of a property a friend of mine was buying surely thought she did well by her clients when she drove their property into a bidding war, but her rapid response style of reading cost her clients $25,000 when she did not carefully read the offer contained in my friend's agent's email and transmitted the wrong figure to them.
Skimmer. Your eyes skip a word here and there, so your email exchanges have some back and forth, but you eventually get done what needs doing. Chances are, your contacts and colleagues view you like they would a C student. You frustrate them with your hit or miss attitude, so you are not likely to inspire enough confidence to win a new deal or get a raise or promotion. Contacts will end up bypassing you when possible and relegate you to the pile of last resorts. When I recently reached out to our health insurance broker, she did the opposite of what I asked in my email, and ended up costing herself (and me!) a lot of time and hassle that could have been avoided if she had read my request as it was written in the initial email. In the process, she made sure that when it comes time to renew our policy, I will go directly to the health insurance company itself and cut her out.
Scrutinizer. Read, reflect, respond. You take the time to read an email in its entirety and then send one succinct reply. It takes a bit longer than you would like sometimes, but being thorough minimizes the clutter in your inbox, helps you stay organized, and ultimately shows the person on the other side of the communication that he can trust you with his business. A prospective customer recently sent me a list of questions about our products, and I carefully answered each point with a clear explanation and concise technical information about our products. A week later, the customer placed a large order and told me that he had chosen our company because, unlike our competitors, I was the only person who had addressed every concern he had raised, so he felt comfortable giving us his business.
Don't let your reading strategy sink your chances at success. If you want colleagues, contacts, and customers to feel they are in good hands with you, slow down, stop scanning, and start reading like your life depends on it--because professionally speaking, it does.