I haven’t blogged in awhile. My work at LexBlog has kept me busy – working with expanding Legal Tech Founders at Legal Geek in London last month, writing content for a new microsite, working with recruiting users for state bars. All of this really boils down to how I use communications.
I wanted to write about that word today – communications. I think there are a lot of misconceptions around the gravity of what that word means. It’s pretty much my job, so I should have some things to say about this, right?
Sure, we all know it’s the secret to healthy relationships and the glue to any successful organization. But what does it really mean to know the art of communication and employ it well throughout daily life? I’m not going to pretend that I’m a deep well of original thought in this area (even though I was, yes, a highly-motivated Communications and Journalism major in college – emphasis on the highly-motivated part).
I do know some lessons I’ve learned about the mechanics of good communication, and the effect it has upon an organization over the past few months at LexBlog. I thought I would write them out in a clearly bulleted list, because lists do, well, successfully communicate to the reader.
1. Don’t reply just for the sake of replying.
When an email comes into your inbox with an urgent-sounding subject line, the first thing you instinctively want to do is send an answer back immediately. It seems to demonstrate a level of competence in your role and your professional knowledge. However, this is a practice I’ve often dismissed from my daily work, simply because a lot of the time, I don’t know the answer to the urgent question. And that’s okay – it’s better to check with others first than to send back a half-competent response.
This may seem obvious, but it can be difficult for dedicated people pleasers (like myself). From someone who only very recently went from a marketing intern to the director of a marketing department, it is obvious that I would want to prove myself competent and worthy of my role to others. But, sometimes it is best to take a step back, consider the question, and ask for help when appropriate. Be honest with your knowledge. It’s better to give a truly competent response than a half-guessed answer that is sent back within 1 minute of receiving an important email.
2. Pay attention to how others communicate for best results.
One of the best principles I learned in my undergraduate studies is what makes a smart communicator. Communicating well isn’t just pulling out the old Com Theory textbook and starting to apply overarching principles to your everyday workplace relations. The top lessons I’ve learned on smart communication are applied when observing how another person prefers to communicate, and applying that when you work with them.
Now, this probably sounds exhausting, I know. But I’m not talking about keeping a little journal on your desk for you to track each of your coworkers’ typical communications patterns. Please don’t do that. It’s creepy.
Paying attention to how others communicate can be as simple as recognizing that they prefer to chat via Slack instead of email. Maybe you’ve noticed your coworker enjoys grabbing coffee and discussing your team goals for the week. Maybe another coworker prefers to have their space and would rather communicate via online chat or Hangouts video calls instead of having another meeting clog up their weekly calendar.
Smart communication is caring and observant. Learn how to best communicate with those around you for happier results.
3. Don’t be afraid to get what you need.
Like I said above, it’s important to be nice and validate others in their preferred communication methods. But it’s also important to recognize that it can be difficult collaborating with others who may not be listening to your requests for help or information. This is when you need to step up and get the job done.
Sometimes it’s difficult (especially as a people pleaser) to continually push for others to give you what you need. You feel like you’re bugging people or they don’t care about what you’re working on. Experiencing these things can be very discouraging. If you find yourself in this cycle of validating others’ preferred communication methods and still being denied, it’s time to change up your approach.
The best way to solve this is to take initiative, even if it can be uncomfortable. This doesn’t mean to be rude (Walking up to their desk and remarking loudly, “Yes. Hi. Did you get the past 5 emails I sent? Or do you just suddenly not check email anymore?”). You can take initiative and get the job done while being considerate. Sometimes that can look like a quick Slack message requesting to talk in private. Sometimes it can look like setting up time on their calendar for coffee or lunch.
You can get their attention by deviating from your normal approach to communicating with them, and you can do all of this while being kindly mindful of their time and position in the workplace.
Summing it up.
Working in a role that is highly communications-focused has adjusted my approach to how I relate to others in the workplace. The cool thing about communications is that literally everyone uses it every single day. Everyone is learning lessons about how to do it better.
As you work in your role this week, consider how your communications approach affects those around you. Write down three things you’ve learned in the past six months about how you communicate with others. It’s a great exercise that will only improve the way relate to other people as you navigate your career.