Some communication best practices are timeless.
In the age of Zoom, Slack, and our hyper-connected “always on” society, a lot has changed over the past decade in terms of how we communicate with each other. Ten or 20 years ago, you couldn’t just send a DM to a coworker straight to their phone or laptop — and if you did, under the right circumstances, you might end up talking to HR about it. You couldn’t video conference team members across the globe, and you weren’t expected to answer your emails while traveling.
Times have changed — but that doesn’t mean you should abandon the foundational principles of good communication etiquette.
It’s noticeable, both in positive and negative ways, when people have deliberate and intentional etiquette in the workplace. And in life in general.
These are 6 important indicators of good communication etiquette I (still) look for in the people I hire and work with, as well as the things I continue to remind myself to practice on a daily basis.
1. Always send a Thank You note
This is one of the small things that makes a big difference.
I am astounded by the fact that many people no longer send Thank You notes — after an interview, after being connected or meeting someone new, after being given an amazing opportunity, etc. I have literally not hired people because, after an interview, I didn’t hear from them. And while it might seem like an inconsequential detail, I tend to notice it’s the people who do send Thank You notes that understand something very crucial and fundamental about effective communication: business is a game of relationships.
If you don’t see the value of expressing gratitude for an interview and for the fact that someone took time out of his or her busy schedule, how can I assume that working with us — in a service-oriented business — you’ll know what’s appropriate/respectful/kind/thoughtful in client relationships and beyond? (I can’t.) Also, enthusiasm is key across the board, and Thank You notes help demonstrate that.
Under all circumstances, if someone made time for you, whether it’s an interview or a prospective client or vendor, a Thank You note is always appropriate.
It can be short and simple. (Bonus points if you go the extra mile with personalization and a thoughtful nod to the conversation you had, etc.)
2. Properly formatted calendar invites
The way you send a calendar invite says so much about how you think and how you work.
People notice whether you send a calendar invite right away, or if you procrastinate and end up sending it 15 minutes before your call or meeting. People notice if you set what should only be a 30-minute call for an hour. People notice whether you include call-in details or say, “I’ll send you something right before we chat.” People notice whether you spell their name correctly in the title of the invitation.
All these little details are tiny indicators of whether or not you are taking your work seriously — and you are respecting the time of the other person. (Bonus points if you put the other person’s name first in the invitation as a sign of respect.)
3. Write thoughtful emails
Emails are so easy to fire off these days that it can be easy to forget to make them clear, thoughtful, and personal.
- If you are coordinating times, be very clear about the date and time zone.
- If you are giving instructions, be detailed to the point where you won’t have to bounce additional emails clarifying what you’re saying.
- If you are connecting people or making an introduction, make the intention of the email thread clear, and then politely excuse yourself.
It should also go without saying that you should write thoughtful, coherent sentences, avoid spelling and grammar mistakes, etc. If you struggle in this department, download Grammarly.
Today’s pace of communication is so fast, it’s easy to skip over the details or communicate in a way that doesn’t fully address what needs to be communicated. So much time can be saved by thinking ahead and putting a little extra time and energy into that first communication. That might be the reason someone can respond with a “yes” or “no” versus a long email chain asking for additional information.
Plus, sometimes using shorthand in email means the niceties and emotional context are eliminated, which meaningfully impacts the way someone receives the email.
Thoughtfulness makes all the difference. In emails and in life 🙂
4. Pick up the phone
It’s incredible how many things can be so easily resolved with a quick chat.
It’s also incredible how often text-only conversations can cause things to get lost in translation, and end up compounding communication problems.
Just pick up the phone.
For example, last week I called one of my team members, and after we got through what we needed to talk about, we were able to catch up a bit — and it was so nice. It was great for both of us, and I know she also appreciated that I had shared I was missing talking to her. There’s something about hearing the other person’s voice that makes both parties feel more connected.
We get so used to the back and forth via technology that we forget how important it is to hear someone’s voice. And the value of taking time for someone in this way.
Sometimes slowing down for one moment to pick up the phone makes a huge difference both in terms of how effectively things get done and also in how both parties feel about the experience.
5. Dress code (in-person and on Zoom)
The way you present yourself matters. (Yes… even after COVID!)
That doesn’t mean you have to put on a suit or wear a dress, but there is certainly a signal that gets sent when you show up to a Zoom meeting (or in-person meeting) in your sweatpants.
In our case, my company works in health and wellness and sports and fitness, and so our workplace was fairly casual before the pandemic. And generally, that’s a great thing. But, on a number of occasions, someone in our office didn’t realize a client would be coming in, and they felt awkward because they were stuck wearing their casual workout/yoga clothes.
Comfortable is good. And comfortable can still look presentable. It’s all about finding the balance. And if you’re wearing workout clothes to the office, always have a nicer outfit tucked away in the car, just in case.
6. Be aware of your energy.
The energy you bring forward is a big part of communication etiquette.
Nobody enjoys working alongside someone who is consistently grumpy, negative, and complaining. Part of what has been so great about Zoom is that now we can see each other’s faces. Now, the downside here is that after an hour of being on Zoom with someone, it becomes painfully apparent whether or not they are engaged, positive, and emotionally invested.
It’s important to do an “energy reset” before you hop on a call or Zoom with someone, or before you show up to a meeting. You always want to be putting your best foot forward — the feeling and energy you bring are how the other person will remember you and his or her experience with you.
A few other (important) basics when it comes to business etiquette:
- Maintain eye contact.
- Pay attention. Observe. Make it known that you’re present and aware.
- Come prepared (and don’t waste other people’s time).
- Share the floor. Know when it’s your time to speak, and when to listen.
- Lift people up whenever possible (and refrain from putting people down).
- Do your work with a smile on your face.
While some of this may seem obvious, conscious etiquette is more important and meaningful than ever as the world picks up its pace. As we return to the real world with real, human interaction, let’s make a conscious effort to bring back the humanity in how we work with each other.