These days, effective communication isn’t as simple as just making eye contact and speaking slowly and clearly. We have to learn to apply the same concepts to communications we conduct through email, text and the like. The problem is, because it’s ideally so easy to communicate, we have come to expect instant responses to our messages. Which, as you probably already know, does not always occur.
Here are a few common barriers to effective communication, and the best ways to communication without expectations.
Be clear about what you want/need from someone
When we are trying to communicate with other people, the biggest mistake we often make is thinking we are being clear and concise when we aren’t. If you explain something to someone, your first instinct is probably to assume they get it and proceed to wait for them to do what you have asked them to do.
The problem is, sometimes we aren’t clear at all. Add to that the fact that many people are afraid to ask for clarification for fear of looking silly or unintelligent, and you are on your way to being let down by someone you trusted to help you without even realizing it is your fault.
If you are as clear as possible, you will have done your part. From that point forward, it’s up to the other person to decide if they want to respond appropriately to you or not. As long as you communicate, you don’t have to worry so much about expecting someone else to understand you.
Make it easy for other people to reach you
Expecting someone to respond to you is normal: if you want something, it only makes sense that someone should at least let you know they are listening. This isn’t really practical, however, if you, even unintentionally, make it difficult for people to give you a response.
For example, let’s say you are planning a dinner party. You ask everyone on your invite to RSVP as soon as possible. But you don’t tell them how, specifically, to let you know whether or not they will be attending the event. Do they call you? Email? Send you a social media message?
Don’t just have an open channel ready to receive: when communicating with someone, give them clear instructions on the quickest and most convenient way to reach you if you really want or need them to respond as soon as possible. Tell them to email you at a specific address, call your number at a certain time or text you between a certain time frame. This way, excuses such as “I didn’t know when was the best time to call you” or “I figured you never checked or replied to emails anyway” no longer apply. Also remember to give a clear deadline for these kinds of messages, preferably sooner rather than later for all your procrastinating friends and relatives.
Still keep in mind, however, that whether or not they do reach out to you when prompted is up to them. Never expect a reply. That way, if you do not receive one, you can assume the issue is on their end and not yours.
Respond quickly and clearly
Unfortunately, our culture now mandates quick, if not immediate, responses to emails, texts, phone calls and the like. Sometimes we forget that what we want other people to do, we must also practice ourselves. The same way you probably expect other people to respond to you as soon as possible, you should also make it a point to respond as close to immediately as you can.
If you are communicating through email or any other form of digital communication channel, you don’t necessarily need to keep yourself glued to your devices to make sure you respond to someone. If everyone stayed on their phones 24/7, no one would ever actually get anything done. Make it a goal to check your messages every few hours, or every hour on the hour if that is going to be the easiest way for you to remember to check if someone needs a response from you.
If you are communicating with people in person, stay away from vague answers and explanations. If you don’t know the answer to a question, take down someone’s contact information and let them know you will get back to them. From there, just make sure you actually follow through, in no more than 24 hours. The best thing you can do is show people you are a quick and clear communicator without them having to expect otherwise.
Understand that not everyone is on the same wavelength as you are
We have all received a phone call, meant to call back immediately and forgotten completely. It happens to the best of us; sometimes, things just slip your mind. While we may have come to expect that people respond to us immediately, or give us clear answers in person, it is also important to understand that while your first priority might be planning that dinner party and getting an accurate head count, someone else might not be thinking two months ahead like you are.
The best way to communicate without expectations is to think of things from another person’s perspective. If someone does not respond right away, it is likely nothing more than the fact that they are wrapped up in their own day to day activities. If you don’t hear back from someone within a few weeks, in some cases it’s okay to reach out to them again; they may have just forgotten. The more you set a reasonable example for others, the better.
Effective communication, no matter the medium, is all about being clear. You need to make yourself reachable and make it easier for people to respond to you. You can also set a good example for others by responding clearly and quickly yourself. Most importantly, always remember that just because someone does not respond right away does not mean they won’t. Expect a reply within 24 hours, which is common courtesy, and you will be much more satisfied.