Thanks for your patience: A digital communication strategy

Early in my career, a mentor gave me some sound advice about building relationships in business. He explained the most ideal form of communication is a two-way dialogue, in-person or over the phone. In these scenarios, you can react in real time and follow up on comments in an organic and fluid fashion.

You can gain an understanding of emotion or intent through the tone of someone’s voice or mannerisms. This concept has stuck with me for over 20 years.

Fast forward to today. In-person meetings are few and far between. Zoom and Teams help fill the gap by providing both audio and video. But in many cases, you are left with one-way digital communications, such as email, text messages or social media dialogue.

Here are some perspectives that I’ve gained during these last several months that have helped me improve interactions and even meet new people through digital communication.

  • Don’t be so apologetic. Many of us want to be respectful with emails and feel bad if we don’t respond quickly. Oftentimes, people will start an email or text message with the words, “My apologies” or “My bad.” Instead of this approach, try the words, “Thanks for your patience.”
    It’s respectful to the recipient, and to yourself. We are all busy. We can’t be in every place at the same time or reply to every email instantly. It’s OK to follow up after a delay, as long as you do follow up. Remember that your time is just as valuable as your recipient’s time.
  • Be clear and use the subject line. The subject line should be the headline of your email message.
    Typical subject lines may make statements like, “Checking in” or “Follow-up” or, the best of all, “Meeting.” If you want to get someone’s attention, it’s important to get right to the point. This is not the section for ambiguity.
    Think about it. How often do people read thoroughly through entire articles at first? They don’t, and most of us only scan the headlines of our favorite publication. Treat the subject line in your email the same way, and you’ll find that you will receive more prompt and effective replies.
  • Suggest we jump on a call. Due to these ever-growing number of digital tools, many of us can treat the phone as the tool of last resort. These one-way chats are convenient, but not as effective with certain nuances of business. To prevent the back and forth of chats, suggest that you jump on a call. This could save more time and build stronger relationships.
  • In texts and emails, emojis help bring some human nature to your message. Believe it or not, emojis have become acceptable in business messages. They bring some emotion and personality to the situation, allowing you to express your feelings during this one-way conversation.

    Don’t be embarrassed to use them every now and then. If you use them in an email subject line, you may actually find your message stands apart in the packed inbox of others. 😉

Bill Nottingham is Managing Partner & VP of Growth at Nottingham Spirk