Business ConceptOne of the hallmarks of successful business and nonprofit enterprises is an ability to connect and communicate with those who are most important—our customers, clients, supporters, funders, professional associates, and partners.  In today’s 24/7, “always-on” world, we are all challenged to find the best ways to share information, develop thought leadership, strengthen relationships, and build awareness. Here is are four tips for communication success in 2015.

Learn to Pause. With a cell phone camera or a few keystrokes and clicks, all of us have the power to reach thousands of people with our thoughts, ideas, and complaints.  But all too often, in the heat of emotion, we record a rant or write a nasty blog post, hit send, and set off a chain of events that we may not have intended.  A better approach is to hit the pause button.  Stop and think before you speak, before you post.  You may still want to express anger or discontent, but by taking a minute to think about it, you might decide to shift your tone.  People will hear you more clearly if you aren’t yelling.

Be Direct. How many times have you wished that someone would just stop beating around the bush and get to the point? How many times have you gotten the run-around from a company or service provider that hasn’t lived up to its promises?  In both cases, it’s just plain frustrating.  So for 2015, let’s all just say what we mean.  If you are asking a colleague or associate for an extra duty or inconvenience, just plain ask them.  Don’t spend time talking about how overworked you are and how unfair it is.  If your company made a mistake or isn’t able to deliver on a promise, just say so.  Then do what you can to move the issue forward.  Don’t hide behind extra stories or five syllable words.  Be polite, but save everyone the time, obfuscation, and drama.

Be Authentic.  People respond to individuals and companies who are authentic, that is, those who deal with people honestly, with sincerity and integrity.  Authenticity shows up most readily when actions match words.  If your company promises to customers first, do it. Don’t keep them on hold for 10 minutes every time they call.  If your company positions itself as caring about the safety of its customers, then be willing to recall products that might have dangerous defects.  And if you’re positioning yourself or your products to respond to human needs and emotions—all in tune with current trends—you should still be sensitive to history, culture, and context.

 Don’t leave people hanging.  There is nothing worse than reaching out to someone and getting no reply. One of the biggest complaints I hear from managers and subordinates is that people simply don’t respond either to emails or phone calls.  Sometimes it’s because you don’t want to deliver bad news.  Sometimes it’s just time pressure.  But the reality is people can deal with anything, and frequently, people can wait for a thoughtful answer.  When you don’t respond, it’s not just a sign of disrespect; it’s a failure to communicate that can torpedo everything from long-term work projects to valuable professional and personal relationships. I know our email boxes are overflowing but it takes only seconds to reply with, “Got it,” or “Can’t respond for a few days,” or “Sorry, can’t help you on that.”

Do you have a communications wish for 2015?