building new castles every day

Posts Tagged ‘this is communication’

Thank You (Cards)

In Makings on November 3, 2012 at 8:03 AM

The latest batch of cards, for my colleagues at the Vancouver Writers Fest.
My contract may have come to an end, but I’m making sure our relationships don’t.

Gratitude is an investment in others. It is a sentiment which, when expressed, bolsters the relationships that enrich our lives.

And if good communication is all about crafting a clear, concise and compelling message to establish or maintain a connection, then thank-you cards are an perfect medium for showing gratitude!

There are many reasons to send thank-you cards:

  • You attended a fantastic dinner party (and you want the host to know they’re fantastic, too)
  • You were interviewed for a job (and you want to highlight the meeting in the hiring manager’s mind)
  • You received a business referral (and you want to articulate how much you value your network connection)
  • You received a thoughtful gift (and you want to return the thought)
  • You were given good advice (and want to stay connected with this clever person)
  • You were granted a spontaneous favour (and you want to recognize the good will)

For the business development geeks (like me), a thank-you card delivers the biggest return on investment when two key elements are included:

  1. Personalization
  2. Time

It’s one thing to write “Dear Miss Awesome — thank you!” in a factory card with the words “Merci!” printed on the front. But you can take your underlying message up a whole notch by writing a specific reason why you’re thanking that person.

People love anecdotes! So sit down and take a few extra minutes to consider your history with this person: Why are you grateful for them? What feelings did their actions conjure up inside you? What impact or change did they make in your life?

It’s the little things you can draw upon, so don’t worry about creating tear-jerking prose. A genuine thought written in your own voice will do the trick.

And then there’s a whole other level you can take your medium of gratitude: Handmade thank-you cards. Again, this takes time and personalization but it’s where you’ll really blow the recipient’s mind.

And it doesn’t need to be fancy! I keep a stock of envelopes and coloured card paper in my office, along with a selection of images I’ve gathered from magazines, newspapers and old books.

When you’re done reading a magazine, why not recover the printed graphics for another use?
This origami dress was repurposed from an issue of Vancouver-based GEIST magazine.

With bit of a glue and a quality ballpoint pen, you’ve got the tools to make a completely personalized thank-you card.

Note: If you’re the crafty type, I recommend keeping a few other card-making tools on hand: Glue stick, utility knife, a personalized stamp or seal, ink pad or sealing wax, coloured pens, pencil sharpener.

With the proliferation of cast-off materials to be found in our consumable world, there’s no need to spend several dollars on a factory note card. Of course, not every situation warrants a handmade card. But if it suits your personality, and will resonate with the recipient, I say craft it up.

And since email hasn’t completely eradicated the postal service, take advantage of the system and create joy! Receiving something beautiful and personal in one’s (physical) mailbox beats bills and flyers any day.

For the cost of a stamp and the 20 minutes you spend crafting your message, a thank-you card will help to ensure a lifetime of valued relationships. A worthy investment indeed.

Set a goal, choose a tactic

In Doings on October 5, 2012 at 9:30 AM

Good communication can happen when a goal is clearly set. So how do you set a goal?

  1. Identify the problem of your situation.
  2. Realize how you want your situation to be different.
  3. Then, establish the appropriate tactics to achieve the new situation.

The tactics you choose to achieve your goal can be as complex as those used in a national marketing campaign. Or, they can be as simple as a poster on your door. Like this:

Here’s the example:

Since my Modern Vancouver Family moved into our new house, we’ve been swimming in flyers. As much as my carpenter boyfriend, Phil, uses trees, he hates to see them wasted on unread marketing and advertising.

So there’s the problem: We have wasted paper filling our mail slot.

How do we want the situation to be different, I asked Phil.

I don’t want the guy to deliver that stuff to our house, he declared.

So, what do we need to do? Phil rolled his eyes. To communicate this to our neighbourhood mail carrier. Duh.

Ok, smarty pants, I said. Let’s put your talent to work. And I sat him down with my jar of pencil crayons and the back of a cereal box to let him create the message.

Half an hour later, Phil emerged from his creative bubble and presented me with his half of the tactic. Now it was my turn to do the offer half: Placing the message in a location where we’d be sure our audience, the mail carrier, would see it.

Close proximity to the point of mail delivery seemed ideal. The poster would await our mail carrier’s next visit.

And the result?

No more flyers! Successful communication achieved. (Thanks, Phil.)

Rules to live and communicate by

In Readings on September 26, 2012 at 3:16 PM

A new article by Becky Gaylord posted to today takes communication to its basics, offering 12 rules of communication that anyone can (and should) put to use. And I do agree that everyone should practice these, no matter their profession or role or relationship. (When I think about my family home, rules #8, #10, #11 and #12 are particularly valuable!)

1. Voice mail greeting

Smile when you record it. You don’t want to sound perky, just pleasant. Listen to the difference when you record the message while wearing a happy face—it might surprise you.

2. Email subject line

Never leave it blank. This rudely assumes that whatever you have to say is so important that the recipients will open it anyway. Think of the subject as a headline. Tease the main point there. A short, catchy, specific subject is sure to get a quicker response than the dreaded “following up” or “hi.”

3. Email message body

In a business-related email, leave out the emoticons, especially when the message is being sent to your superiors or more than one person.

4. All communication

Ask or notice if the recipient has a preferred way to be contacted. Some live and breathe through texting. Email is best for others. And others still want calls. Your message will be received more effectively if it comes in on the channel your audience prefers.

5. Phone calls

When on a phone call, be present. It’s obvious—and disrespectful—when callers are distracted and multitasking. If it’s not a good time to talk, just say so, and arrange another time to speak.

6. Conference calls

Thankfully, many conference calls are muted by the moderator or administrator. But if the one you’re on is not muted automatically, do so anyway. It is so annoying to hear someone munching, typing, or snoring (yep, I’ve heard that) on a conference call. Even background noise can be distracting.

7. Conversations in person or on the phone

Allow the other person to finish their sentence. It’s polite and civil, and helps keep conversations that way, too.

8. Interrupting

But if necessary to interject—and sometimes it is—use a trick like: “So allow me to stop you there…” Or, “To clarify, I’d like to ask…” Or, “OK, so to respond to your point…”

9. “I’ll have to get back about that”

No problem. Just make sure to do so. And promptly.

10. Meetings

People (peers and managers) know who’s listening and contributing—and who’s checking their phones. Participate and respect the task at hand.

11. Starting a conversation

Whether popping into someone’s office or calling them on the phone, take a moment to ask if it’s a good time.

12. Written communication

The tone of voice, facial gestures, and other communication clues are absent in a memo or an email. Make sure to use please, thank you, and other signs of manners in written communication. Those soften a tone that, otherwise, can sound colder or harsher than intended.