Communicating in the Age of Technology

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alright, I have to call my sister out a little here. She read my blog post about common blunders people make when using their cell phones for email. Her response was “This doesn’t really pertain to me. Besides, I was brought up in the age of technology being integrated with social etiquette.” I wholly disagreed with the second part.

For background, my sister is 22 (or something), and when we’re not face to face, we communicate almost exclusively by text (when she hasn’t dropped her phone in the bathtub) or facebook chat. If I call her, there’s a pretty good chance she won’t answer her phone, and an equally good chance that she will text me when she sees my missed call rather than call me back. I’m using her as an example, but she’s not the only one who does this. I have friends who I haven’t spoken to on the phone in years, but who I communicate with frequently. So, I have to ask, is this an age where technology is integrated with social etiquette, or an age where technology replaces social etiquette?

If you’ve ever pretended to talk on your cell phone to avoid an awkward social situation, you’ve replaced social etiquette with technology. If you’ve ever held a serious conversation (e.g., a breakup, a confrontation, a gushing of feelings) via text message, guess what? You’ve replaced social etiquette with technology. Hiding behind technology can make you brave, and sometimes that can be a good thing – but eventually you will have to deal with face to face confrontations, emotions, and situations. Will you be ready?

I’ll be the first to admit I’m a facebook addict. I’d also admit that facebook can be very useful in building relationships, especially if you’re shy. You can get a good glimpse into someone’s personality and the interests you share if you interact with them on facebook. But, if that’s your only method of interaction, the relationship probably isn’t doing that much for either of you, and it’s probably not growing.

Technology can be an aid, or it can be a crutch. It’s all in how you use it. But people will notice how you use it. If they call you, and you text back, they’ll notice. If they see you constantly clutching your phone, but you don’t respond to their text messages, they’ll know it’s deliberate. Don’t let being a technophile leave you debilitated in the face of real world challenges as simple as speaking to your friends or colleagues outside of email or facing an uncomfortable situation. No matter how much you avoid it, you will have to deal with it sometime. Will you be ready?

How Not to Use Your Cell Phone

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I got a great lesson in quickly sending emails via cell phone today. Autocorrect decided that instead of spelling the name of the product I was talking about, I was really trying to say “anus.” Multiple times. All through the email. And yes, I sent it without proofreading to an unsuspecting list of coworkers. But this is just one of the many faux pas you can easily make if you’re writing business emails on your cell phone as if you’re texting a friend. My big list of cell phone no-nos is:

1. Not Proofreading Your Messages

Autocorrect is a real killer. In addition to the above mistake, I was running around like a chicken with my head cut off one day and trying to provide direction to a supplier about the naming convention for a new feature I needed. Ignoring autocorrect, I sent him an email erroneously asking him to name it “OPP.” Luckily, he humorously replied “I’m down with OPP. Yeah, you know me!” and I caught my mistake before it cost me an extra change request to the system! But taking 5 seconds to check my email before sending it could have done that with much less dependence on luck. Of course, we’re all human, so autocorrect isn’t the only way you can royally botch a message. Always take the time to carefully reread what you’re writing before sending to make sure your message is clear.

2. Writing Harsh Emails

I’ve had people warn me in advance before that they “may seem short or harsh in their emails, but it’s because I’m using my cell phone.” Translation? “I don’t care enough about your feelings to take the time to write an email that won’t sound like I’m berating you.” This is one thing that can seriously kill relationships, especially if you respond this way to your direct reports. If you come off as self-absorbed or too busy for someone in your emails, that will be their perception of you. So if you can’t take an extra minute to consider the tone of your email, be prepared for the consequences of the way people see your actions. Believe me, the forewarning doesn’t soften the blow.

3. Trying to Respond So Quickly That You Ignore Half the Email

I know, I know, if you have a million questions to ask in an email – why didn’t you just call? But if I have multiple points or questions in my email, answering one of them probably isn’t going to get me off your back. If you don’t know the answer to the other questions right now, that’s okay! I don’t need an answer to my 20 Questions game in world record time! You can take some time to consider my questions or proposal and you can answer later! Similarly, but probably more damaging to relationships: if I send you an email asking “How’s the new job?” followed by a work-related question, I’m probably not just trying to make polite small-talk. I actually care about how your new job is going. If you care about building relationships, don’t accidentally blow off people’s attempts to connect with you on a level slightly deeper than “What are your thoughts on that report that just came out?” because you want to get an answer to this email out before the elevator hits the third floor.

4. Abbreviation

This one has some unintended consequences. I had a friend tell me once that she sent her boss an email, requesting his or her approval or opinion on a proposal. The boss responded back with simply “Y,” so naturally my friend spent the next hour or two crafting some additional background information on her proposal, assuming that the boss wanted more information, justification, or reasoning. So after these couple of wasted hours preparing and sending additional information (this friend holds a relatively high position in her organization, so her time is not trivial), she learns that her boss was using “Y” to mean “Yes,” and not “Why?” as she had originally thought. Two extra keystrokes from her boss could have saved several hours and certainly a lot of frustration. Whether you’re on a computer or a cell phone, always make sure you’re clear. If a phone call would say it better, do that instead – it’s a cell phone, after all.

5. Responding Impulsively

Tying back somewhat to number two, responding impulsively without first thinking about what you are trying to say can have unintended consequences. When you’re receiving email 24 hours a day thanks to a mobile device, it’s very easy to want to respond quickly to get some responses out of the way. The consequences of responding impulsively can range from unintentionally showing your frustration to decision making you later have to rescind because spending some extra time thinking about it has made you realize it wasn’t the best course of action. Take some extra time to think about your response before

All of these points tie back to a single central point: clarity. If, at your desk or on your cell phone, your email can’t provide the clarity you need for it to provide in a way that is succinct, an email is not the best way to say it. Never use your email as a crutch or a mask, or try to force fit your thoughts into a short email. In many cases, it will probably take less time to pick up a phone or even walk over to someone’s office and will probably end up with better results if the message is important.

That said, if you want to laugh until you cry, check out these other work-related autocorrect blunders: DamnYouAutoCorrect.com

Defining Leadership

You can find leaders anywhere. It’s not limited to parents, bosses, teachers, politicians, and the like. Leadership, in its most basic dictionary definition, means “to go before or with to show the way.” This basic definition implies the role of leaders to set the example for others. The desire to write this blog hit me while I was catching up on “The Biggest Loser” after coming back from my Disney vacation this week (more on that to come!). In last week’s episode, they voted off Marci. In this week’s episode, they voted off Justin. I thought both decisions showed great leadership on the parts of the departed. Why? Because they asked their fellow contestants to vote them off to save their teammates who needed it more than they did. Aside from their selfless gestures in the elimination room, these two have exhibited amazing leadership characteristics from the beginning of the season. So what makes them leaders to me?
  1. They recognize that leadership is not only about their journey, but everyone’s journey. They inspire others to be at their best, even if it means sacrificing immediate rewards for themselves.
  2. They lead by example every day. They give it their all, and as some of the oldest contestants on the Biggest Loser, they can inspire others to think “hey, if they can manage, so can I!” And in reality, you can tell they do it for others more than they do for themselves.
  3. All of the decisions they make are for the benefit of the team – even when those choices are difficult. A few weeks ago when they were both made captain of their respective teams (obviously no mistake), they had to make tough decisions that their teammates questioned at the time, but ultimately came to realize were the right choices.
Great leaders are everywhere in my life, and I’ve been lucky enough to recognize it and learn from them. In some cases, they had positions of authority, but the polar opposite has also been true. In fact, some of the people who have inspired me the most were technically my suppliers in our relationship! Granted, these people went on to have greater positional authority, but they were able to lead without positional authority (I’m looking at you, Baumstark & Garmanova).You can always “get by” as a manager, but it’s the true leaders who have the greatest potential to inspire others and have the greatest impact on the world, and it all starts with their own actions.