I was left red-faced last week. I’d emailed my tech guru, Matthew, in a panic about a problem with one of my (ahem) ‘stupid’ systems. It was glitching badly and I didn’t know what to do.
Matthew asked me a couple of questions before it suddenly dawned on us – I’d been using the system wrongly. The ‘glitch’ was me!
Laughing (I like to think with, not at, me…), Matthew told me of an acronym they use in IT support:
PEBCAC (Problem Exists Between Computer And Chair)!
I love it.
Because we’re often quick to point the finger, aren’t we? To lay the blame for a problem everywhere other than at our own door.
This is especially true when we’re communicating. We say things like:
“I can’t believe that client hasn’t got back to me. It’s been two weeks since we met. So rude after all that effort I put in to my presentation.”
“I’ve chased three times for feedback on my proposal but all I’ve got is tumbleweed. It’s so frustrating.”
“In my email, I asked my manager to answer seven different questions and he’s only addressed one. He’s a nightmare to deal with.”
It’s always their fault, never ours, right? Right…?
Wrong. If we take a closer look at what happened before the radio silence, we often find that we’re part of the problem.
- asked for too many things at once in a single email (‘Please look through the below information and send me any comments, fill out the attached form and let me know if you’d like a coffee to discuss, and if so, when and where is good for you.’ Argh!)
- overwhelmed them with information (50-slide presentation decks stuffed with technical information or lengthy proposals that focus on features, not benefits)
- weren’t clear on next steps – who’s going to make the next move and when?
All too often we make it too hard for people to do what we want them to do.
We are the problem, not them.
So, to avoid getting yourself into communication standstill, try these 3 tips:
- Limit yourself to one topic per email – if you must ask for multiple things, present them in numbered bullet points
- Make the next step easy – for example: give options on your availability if you’re trying to book a meeting with someone; agree on a date you’ll follow up with the client after you’ve delivered a proposal
- Keep it short and sweet – keep emails to 3 concise paragraphs with a clear call to action at the end. Strip out all ‘dead wood’ in presentations and proposals – only include what’s useful, interesting and relevant.
Remember: better communication always delivers better results. You’ll soon go from PEBCAC to perfect communicator, I promise!