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Tough conversations: although they take some time, they are most worthwhile

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The other day, I sent an email to 10 people with a message primarily focused on three individuals from the group.

It involved a sensitive topic, so choosing words carefully, and sparingly, was paramount.

That “less is more” sensibility stemmed from my awareness that the email would not be the final word on the topic being addressed.

Follow-up conversations were sure to follow—and, in fact, I encouraged them to happen amongst those in the group.

By adopting this approach, I dodged one of the most frequent pitfalls that is the underside of the instant and expansive communications at our fingertips: we rely far too heavily on any one piece of communication to do and be all things to all audiences.

It’s the text message sent in the heat of the moment—or the one sent at a decidedly humdrum moment, but which suffers from misinterpretation. (Tip: emoticons pale in comparison to the tone and nuance that are part of each of our vocal packages.)

It’s sending an excruciatingly detailed and one-sided email to a group of people when it would be better sorted out through a series of personalized emails—or, better yet, in one-on-one meetings that allow for the ebb and flow of conversational give-and-take.

In those contexts where we have time and space for that more in-depth or sensitive dialogue to occur, then it’s best to move that portion of the interaction to that different time and space.

Of course, doing so requires a level of commitment—to the relationship, first of all. Beyond that, it requires a commitment of time, of carefully choosing our words as well as our overall approach.

Why go to all this trouble? It is to maximize the delivery of our intended message while we minimize mucking it up with a mediocre mode of delivering it.

A principle of effective communication has relevance here: years ago, Amway Triple Diamond Greg Duncan, a leader in the World Wide Group (WWDB) training-and-development organization, shared these wise words: “Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.”

Among other things, he was talking about companies that have installed complex, soulless phone systems that are maddeningly difficult to navigate. They are convenient for the company, maybe, but hardly for the customer.

So it is with our interpersonal communication. Without a doubt, it’s much more convenient to send mass emails without regard to the individual needs represented by those in the group. But in the end, it’s about putting quality into our communication, which improves the quality of our relationships. And that doesn’t come without some effort.

If that’s a priority for you, then you will want to resist the temptation of seeing all of your activities as being equal on your to-do list. They are not, whether they are part of your personal life or contacts in the media you have developed through prior public relations and marketing initiatives.

People are far, far more important than things, so don’t treat them like objects to “get through.” Instead, regard them as valued, unique individuals who merit your earnest effort to “get through to.”