When you think of a conversation, you may think like I do — two people speaking to each other in a back-and-forth fashion. In World War II, loved ones sent letters to soldiers in combat and waited for their replies for months. Although it was the written word, it was still a forward-moving conversation. Even in war time and an epic illustration of “snail mail,” people propelled the conversation, asking questions and getting answers.
Although it’s quite faster, email and voicemail work in a very similar fashion. When you leave a voicemail for someone, do you keep the conversation going, or do you simply request for them to call you back? When you answer an email, do you answer all the person’s questions, or do you reply with an “I don’t know”?
There are ways to keep conversations moving, so the communication is efficient. If you leave a voicemail detailing what questions you have, the person is more likely to get back to you with answers instead of merely calling you back to get your questions, stalling the process.
In college, I worked at a customer-service centric retail store, and the phrase they would cringe at was “I don’t know.” It seemed silly at the time, but learning to adapt the phrase into, “I don’t know, but let me find an answer for you,” has served as an important lesson for me in communication. If you don’t know the answer to the question, try to find one. Even if you offer up options or ideas, the conversation keeps moving, hopefully toward a solution.
Although the mode of communication has changed since World War II, one thing has remained the same — people just want to understand one another better. In a professional environment, being active and proactive in a conversation is just one way to keep business forging ahead.
Although she admits to being impatient in regards to the process, Tiffannie Bond still enjoys the hand-written letter.