Be Good Not Bad by Brian Warren

5 June 2006

Are you an Over-Communicator?

I love good communication. It’s key in so many relationships, both personal and professional. Great communication is even better. Great communication requires an alarmingly low amount of actual instances of communication. That’s because most poor communication is just being redundant.

A hypothetical situation that has happened to me more times than I can count…

[Computer: blip!]

Oh, hey look at that, I got an email from Nina in Corporate Accounts. Well I’ll address that later.

[Phone : ring!]

Ooh, I wonder who’s calling me.

Nina: Hi Brian, this is Nina in Corporate Accounts. I just sent you an email.

Brian: Yes, Nina. I just got that. Anything to add to it?

Nina: No, I just was wondering what you thought about the Very Important Issue in it, and maybe you had a question or something.

Brian: Well, I’ll let you know if I do have a question and I’ll address the Very Important Issue when I go process my email shortly. So far, I don’t have any questions, so I think we’re doing ok.

Clearly, Nina feels pretty insecure about her ability to communicate. This could be for any number of reasons. She could be a lousy communicator, maybe people ignore all her emails, or maybe she’s doing just fine yet she’s just worried her Very Important Issue will fall through the cracks. The net result is that she over-communicates to everybody in her crosshairs.

It boils down to trust and respect. If I respect your time and want you to do a good job with your work, I’ll try to keep my interruptions to your day minimal. Usually this means I’ll choose to only send an email. Following up that email with a phone call, or worse, an office visit, says that I don’t trust you will read your email and do anything about it. It’s also saying “my issues are more important than whatever you have going now so pay attention to me!”

On the other hand, there are absolutely times when an email needs to be followed with some kind of meeting. A classic case is needing to send a document that requires discussion. If you’re in this situation, here’s what you do to maintain trust and respect: Email your document and include a note that says “call me or come by my office when you have a chance to discuss this” or “Look this over and let me know a good time we can chat about it”. Oh, alas, how nice would that be? Not only are you not over-communicating, you’re respecting my time!

When my time is respected, I feel respected as a person, and not only does that respect make me more motivated to handle whatever Very Important Issue that is being communicated to me, but it leaves me free to manage and prioritize my time in the way that I have found works best for me; rather than simply catering to whoever is promoting their Important Issue at the time, I am free to use my own judgement.

Anyone else have similar/dissimilar overcommunication problems? Perhaps an overcommunicator to defend the position?