How to be a master communicator

Friday - 1/7/2011, 3:56pm EST

Robbie Hyman, principal of Robbie Hyman Copywriting

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Technology has increased the speed and frequency of communication. But this ease in exchanging information has had the effect of less seriousness and professionalism in workplace communication, said Robbie Hyman, principal of Robbie Hyman Copywriting, in an interview with the DorobekINSIDER.

Take texting, for example: "You don't have to capitalize letters. You don't have to use punctuation. And if you're instant messing, goodness, you can be sending happy faces and if you're angry you're sending an icon of a guy with a red face and fire coming out of his ears," Hyman said.

Employees need to remember to maintain professionalism, whether they're drafting a formal document or sending an IM. Hyman said, "No matter what communication tool you're using, you're still communicating in a workplace context. It's your reputation on the line."

He added, "What other mechanism do you have for judging my professionalism, my intelligence, my conscientiousness, any other professional traits, any other way than how I communicate with you? That's it. That's all I have."

Hyman offered some simple tips for better communication:

  • If someone looks busy, ask if they are busy and if they have a few minutes to talk.
  • Get rid of information that is not absolutely necessary.
  • Use smaller words. This applies to formal documents too.
  • Change the subject line in an email in a long thread.
  • In an email, "whet the appetite" of the recipient at the beginning and give another layer of information below and then possibly the full content. Don't just include a "blocky" paragraph.

An overarching rule is to keep the recipient in mind and do the work upfront, Hyman said. Something as simple as sending an email with a blank subject line can lead to "professional suicide," where your communication becomes dreaded by others, Hyman said.

"These are the little things you can do that show respect for the person that have a huge return for you ... The effect over time is people begin to respect you more, they think of you as a professional and they welcome future communication from you," Hyman said.

Read Hyman's column in FedSmith.