Thursday, March 15, 2007

Putting "I" into Responsibility our Personal Communications

Although I did not feel so at the time, I really was lucky to have gotten a business degree and experience in that field before embarking on my freelance writing career.
That’s because I think my business background not only helped me develop my writing, but my overall communication skills.
Crammed in between all of the electives in English and History I could get into my schedule, I had to take several classes during my college years in business communications. These classes required study and developing skill in both verbal and written communication.
It was in these classes that I learned telephone etiquette and basic business letter writing. But more importantly, our instructors taught us how to deal with people, which is what you are doing whenever you send a letter or an email (I went to school long before email, but I feel basic etiquette still applies here).
Of course, all of us “lose it” at one time or another. We say things we shouldn’t say and now more than ever with the ease of email, fire off written words before thinking.
It never ceases to amaze me though, upon browsing writer forums or receiving emails from writers, how many of these people who are supposed to be experts in communication, lack basic business communication etiquette.
Several months ago, a new writer on a forum emailed me asking for my rates for mentoring services. I corresponded with this person a few times and then noticed the writer was not being very professional on a writer’s forum.
I wrote Writer A an email, since they had asked for my professional advice and tried to explain that on professional forums, it is not necessary to be right. It is necessary to learn from others, give professional advice when we have it and most importantly, network. Writer A thanked me, told me they didn’t realize what they were doing – and continues to this day to antagonize people. The result? This writer has alienated some of the very people who could have helped with their career – most people just ignore this person now, knowing it is unlikely their rants will contain any take away value.
Other similar situations have happened when people email me about one of my blog posts and work I’m doing through volunteer organizations.
One of the lessons I received in corporate communications training was “focus on the issue, not the person.”
You wouldn’t believe how many emails I’ve received with the phrases “You’ve done this…” “Please check your own website,” (when it is the organization’s website and I don’t have anything to do with it), and these are from people who are supposed to be professional communicators.
When writing a note to someone to give criticism or critique and suggestions while using the phase “you did this,” or “why can’t you do better?” only puts the receiver on the defensive and even if you’re trying to suggest something helpful, usually makes your suggestions null and void in the receivers eyes.
So, writers, again remember, you are not only professional writers, you’re professionals – period.
Use your writing skills not only to wow your editors, but also by inserting some people skills into your written communications.
The results may amaze you.


Blogger Carson Brackney said...

I think you make a good point about bringing an informed perspective to the writing trade.

Before I started writing professionally, I spent time in academia, the corporate world, the legal scene and the blue-collar world, too.

I think having a background and skills that aren't necessarily at the core of effective writing are a difference-maker in terms of successfully operating a business.

I can't imagine how bad I would have stunk if I had went to college and just started trying to make a living this way!


9:11 AM CDT  

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