People have different styles of communication. Some of the differences come from personality, which I have written about in previous posts. My personality tool, It’s in the Sauce, identifies those differences, and provides insight into how to communicate best with different types of people. However, personality differences are only one of the differences related to communication. There are others that are all too common.
It isn’t infrequent for me to be a part of a conversation with a mother of an adult child lamenting about how hard it is to get the adult son or daughter to communicate with them. I must admit, I am sometimes that mother! Most of us know to not expect phone calls from our adult children, or that our phone calls will be answered or returned. We are usually dealing with the texting generation, so we have learned to text when we want to get info to or from our adult children. Even that does not always, or even often, work. It is bewildering. We know our texts are usually received when or soon after they are sent. We also expect that they are read. Then why are they not answered? And if the text is answered, it is often much later and with incomplete information. Reasons for this? Unfortunately, sometimes the failure of the adult child to reply to a parent’s text is reflective of a relationship problem. This post is not intended to address that reason. Sometimes the other person thinks they are too busy to reply. This relates more to the respect the individual shows to the other person. And this is not just with teenagers or adult children, but all of us at times. Not replying to a text is at best careless and is often rude, whether it is intentional or unintentional. Perhaps it is appropriate to identify some “rules” for texting.
Texting is best used to give or receive quick info that is not complicated. If the matter is complicated, another communication method should be used. Most people who text often are tied to their phones and aware of a text when it comes in, and read at that time. If it isn’t answered soon, there is a reason, and not always a good one. One of the reasons is that the text comes in when the other person is driving. Yes, too many people do read their texts while driving, and you know this to be true. The person may be talking with another person, or is engaged in something else that requires their full attention. These are all good reasons for not replying to texts quickly. There are other reasons that are not so defensible.
Another reason for not replying to a text quickly is that the individual does not know the answer, and must check with someone else or do some research before answering. This also happens with emails. This is understandable and defensible, and there is a quick solution so that the other person knows the text or email is not being ignored or hasn’t been seen. The solution is to reply letting the other person know that you received their question, do not have the answer, but will be back in touch soon (defining “soon”) with it. Although this is a good approach, it is easy to forget to reply. We have all done this. The difference between those who do this occasionally or infrequently and those who have a reputation of slow or no response separates good communicators from poor communicators.
Emails are another means of communication that have some “rules.” Emails should be answered the same business day, or within twenty-four hours. This is especially true in business, and it should be true on a personal level as well. The reason for this is simple. People are busy. If someone takes his time to write an email to someone else, there is a reason. The reason is usually that they need to give the other person info or get info from that person. The solution to the problem of not having the information (or determining that it is not appropriate to give the information at this time) is not complicated. A simple, “Got it; I will be back in touch about this hopefully by the end of the week,” or whatever is an appropriate time frame, is sufficient. If some response is not given, the person who sent the email can only imagine why there is no response, and human nature being what it is, we usually conjure up a negative reason for the no response. Sometimes the person receiving the email has the information and does not want to deliver it, for a variety of reasons. Regardless, some response is appropriate, even if it is non-committal.
Back to the issue of phone calls. Although we can’t expect our adult children to return our phone calls, (and yes, we should be able to expect them to) we should be able to expect others to do so. Friends aside, people are too busy to call us to chit-chat; if they call, they need something. If a voice mail is left, we should listen to it before returning the phone call. Doing so often saves us both time, unless the message is simply, “Call me back.” Avoid wasting others’ time in this manner. Leave the detail that will tell the other person what they need to know, including when you will be available for a call back, or not. Phone tag wastes time.
We are not perfect people, and none of us are perfect communicators. Our goal in communication should be to deliver to and receive information from others in a timely and respectful manner.
While the information in this post is not all inclusive, if we adopt some of these “rules,” we will be a better communicator.
Now, answer those emails, phone calls, and texts. And maybe even call (or text) your mother!