Work communications are always a barrel of laughs. Usually, when I have gotten in trouble either at work or with a pal, it involved me snapping off in an email. I don’t do it often, but when I do, I spend the next days downing an entire, full-fat version of humble pie, second-guessing my instincts, and generally feeling pretty s**ty.
I then spend the next 3 months trying to rebuild trust. It’s a terrible ROI.
Also, snapping off doesn’t always mean replying angrily to something. It could mean quickly replying to something that I didn’t have enough information on or, perhaps, responding in a way I thought was hilarious (aka it was misinterpreted as sarcastic). The truth is if your communication results in:
- Your message being lost, or
- Someone feeling bad, it’s a failed endeavor.
I attended an HR/Leadership retreat called Boondoggle a few weeks ago where we ruminated on the concepts of power: how it is used, misused, and should be used in the workplace. One of the participants reminded me of 3 filters all communications should pass before you hit the send button:
- Is It True
- Is It Kind
- Is It Necessary
This mantra is nothing new but deserves repeating this holiday season. Some cite this as a Socrates quote, others Buddha, and even Oprah — just know I didn’t come up with this awesomeness. Here is my breakdown:
Is it true?
Be sure you have all facts straight before you respond. Often we do not. More importantly, we usually don’t really know the true intent of the person sending it. To me, that is the biggest fact you need to find out.
Is it kind?
This is the easiest one to discern with only a little effort. It doesn’t take Mother Teresa to determine if what you are saying is kind, or in the very least, written with some decorum.
Is it Necessary?
Here is the one I get bogged down with most. Although over-communication at work is extremely important when introducing new concepts, procedures, or strategy, there is something to be said for brevity regarding every-day communication. Will the communication help your overall message or push your project forward? If so, then the answer may be yes. But if the communication is just something you need to get off of your chest, but really won’t help your situation (do this live if the answer is yes), or make you feel better at the expense of the reader, the answer is likely no.
Work may not be simple, but these filters really are. Throughout this season of joy and merriment, see if you can incorporate a little kindness into your communications using these three filters. Not only will it make you and the reader feel better, but it will also make the messaging more effective.
Dawn Burke, founder/advisor for Dawn Burke HR, is an HR leader, speaker and writer specializing in new HR practices, engagement and workplace culture. Her HR/leadership career has spanned the last 20 years, most recently serving as VP of People for Birmingham, AL’s award-winning technology company, Daxko (And yes, Kris Dunn and Dawn are making Bham the HR capital of the world! Who knew?). You can also check her out at DawnHBurke.com and a variety of other interesting places. Google her, it’ll keep you posted on what she is up to.