When short is best

TextingCase study 1

My friend Hilary* used to work at a exceptionally busy medical centre. Part of her job was to make appointments for the doctors. She used to email them considerate messages saying something like:

“Sorry to interrupt, but just to let you know I’ve booked Mrs Bonzo for 20 minutes from 2pm on Monday as it looks as though you have a gap in your diary then. I hope that’s OK with you?”

She thought she was passing on the request wrapped around with respect and politeness. But when she had her annual appraisal, she was reprimanded for wasting time.

“We don’t need all that guff,” she was told. “Just tell us the name, time and date of the appointment, with no fancy fluffy verbiage”.

Hilary was perturbed. She did what she was told, but it made her feel uncomfortable to be so abrupt.

Case study 2

A mutual friend, Felicity, sends Hilary wordy text messages, using every one of the 160-character allowance and more (Felicity is quite chatty in real life too). Hilary loves it, and replies in kind.

By contrast, I send her the minimal amount of information via SMS. Sometimes, just a couple of characters or an emoticon is enough to communicate my message.

It’s become an in-joke between us. We’ve discussed it and I know she doesn’t mind.

Hilary told me: “With anyone else, it would seem really rude. I might be upset if I didn’t know you”.

Case study 3

I sent Brian a Facebook message. He took ages to reply. We continued the conversation on Facebook for a while but something seemed unsatisfactory.

I asked him: “What’s the best way to communicate with you?”

“Email,” he said.

So I make sure that’s what I do. He’s more comfortable with it, and I’m happy that I get a timely response.

Why you need to know this

In today’s busy world, it’s more respectful to get your message across as quickly as possible. If in doubt, ask the recipient how much information they need from you and the best channel to reach them.

*Names changed to protect the innocent

photo credit: Texting Emoji via photopin (license)

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