LAUNCH™ into Extraordinary Electronic Communications
“Distracted from distraction by distraction”
― T.S. Eliot
In this age of information overload, people crave a kind smile, not a “smiley face.” A warm handshake can’t be duplicated by Lucida font. But here we all are – stuck to our small and large screens like sticky bubble gum on the sole of our shoe. Like a frog jumping on a hot griddle, we’re going from texts to emails, from Twitter to LinkedIn to Facebook, from GoToMeeting to Skype. Let me tell you, folks, there isn’t enough sunscreen to block out the endless electronic bombardment.
Trying to add the “human touch” to communicating electronically is like trying to teach emotions to Star Trek’s Data (Data’s a robot, for you non-Trekies). How can you possibly put feeling into an email? How can we connect with each other personally with a 140-character message? How can we get the attention we seek to be heard, never mind understood? In person, we can hear the unspoken word through body language and facial expression. We can see, and feel, the meaning of the words being spoken. Now, we have to try and figure out what the heck John is trying to tell us in that blankity-blank email. Did you ever think in your wildest imagination that you would have to translate simple English?
We’ve used LAUNCH™ (Listen, Ask, Understand, Need, Create, Holistic) in many ways, but can it be used through the keyboard? Yes it can! You can ask questions constructed with inflection and meaning that conveys the desired feeling you want in your message. Understanding comes via dialog and asking those follow-up questions. Needs follow the understanding. Ultimately we want to create the written version of the conversation we would have had face to face. And if we take a holistic view of the person on the receiving end, we’ll gift them the satisfaction of having had a meaningful electronic conversation.
LISTEN. You are writing with the hope that the reader will listen. Write in a compelling and meaningful way to engage the reader. Take your time, but get to the point quickly. Yeah, you have 100 emails to read and respond to, but if your replies aren’t going to be read why bother writing them? Once you have the reader’s attention you can get them to listen–truly listen. For the reader, the message may, or may not be important. It’s your job to make sure it is important.
ASK. Don’t tell. Unless you’re a Marine drill sergeant, don’t tell anybody anything! Asking the right questions is essential to the art of conversation; it’s even more essential when using the written word. When you’re asking a question, write it the way you would say it. Use all the tools you can to replicate your speech: italics, bold type, caps, hyphens, et cetera–to set you apart from everyone else.
UNDERSTAND. Wow! Face-to-face understanding is difficult enough. How can we make sure that back- and-forth emails bring us to a complete understanding of each other? Admittedly, this is a 20,000-foot mountain to climb. It might be easier to get your five-year-old to recite the Gettysburg Address! How many times have you come away from an email exchange thinking your reader fully comprehended it, only to find out later that he completely misunderstood? One way to get around this is to put yourself on the other side of the screen. By asking pertinent questions and repeating back and forth what we both read, a clear understanding should emerge. Unless you’re real-time texting, be careful that the time lapse between emails doesn’t throw you off kilter.
NEED. The first need is time and patience to get to the conclusion. This is not about what you need; it is about what the other person needs. And what the other person needs is recognition that their message was understood and acknowledged. What good does it do to write a recipe for a cake and wind up with an omelet? Can you get what you want by satisfying the other person’s needs? Yes! As Mick Jagger sang: “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you might find, you get what you need.” You will always get what you need by thinking of the other person first.
CREATE. What are we trying to create? An answer to a problem? A solution to an issue? The start or end of a relationship? Or is it just a friendly chat? Have a goal for the communication. Don’t just meander around in a conversational loop–have a result in mind, and know when to stop. You want to feel good about your communications and know they are the best they can be. Good written communication is as satisfying as a warm embrace.
HOLISTIC. Did we reach our goal? More importantly, did the other person reach his goal? You must find out. You might say it this way; Charlie, I see the conclusion as a, b and c; do you see it the exact same way?
I retired this year from over 40 years of starting my own businesses and managing businesses for corporations. My goal is to help others succeed and grow to be everything they want to be; to give back and share my life experience.