The more the QWERTY keyboard becomes your mode of transporting words and thoughts, whether it be on your computer, your iPad, or even your cell phone with the advent of texting – the more important it will be to remember that nothing will ever, ever replace looking into someone’s eye and pressing your hand into theirs with a strong, firm, assuring handshake. Sometimes this isn’t possible and you’ll have to get creative with other forms of communication.

It’s important to remember that shortcuts like texting and email become popular because the practice is seen as efficient and easy. Efficiency is a noble quality of an element you’d add to your daily work practice (and millions have), but when you hit the easy button on your emails and texts, there’s usually a price to pay on the other end. Unanswered emails will slow you down. Could a phone call have been better way to handle your question? Texting a client is only a good idea if that’s the only method of getting important information to them. Let’s break down each method with a tip or two for each.

Yours is not the only email arriving in your recipient’s inbox. I’ve never been a fan of changing the priority category to HIGH or HIGHEST. I think a better way is to think harder about the quality of your subject line. You can tell a story in a well written subject line and you’ll receive a reply much sooner. The length isn’t that important and I will suggest two contrasting lengths both with excellent results.

Consider the following subject line (84 characters):

Committee Meeting: Thursday, Oct 27, 7 p.m. (Please confirm RSVP BY 5:00 p.m. EOD)

It clearly tells a story, offers specifics, and offers a deadline for the answer.

One of my favorites subject lines has many uses (9 characters):
Quick one
It piques the interest of the reader and offers solace to a busy person while contrasting the other emails surrounding it in the inbox. This one offers many uses, but is best when asking one simple question that you know the reader can answer quickly without much thought. Don’t cry wolf here with 15 questions and sub-questions; you’re not trying to trick them. If you say “quick one”, mean it!

A good rule for to text or not to text a client or colleague can often be simplified by taking into account a person’s age. If you’re communicating with a 27 year-old, you could feel comfortable doing so via text if you feel that they are often not at their desk or they’re slow to respond to your emails. I wouldn’t text someone in their 50s unless it was a smart way to get information in front of them that was critical to receive right then. In most cases, you’ll know what latitude your business associate gives you to communicate with them.

As mentioned, the price to pay for easy communication is usually at the expense of the wonderful benefits of sitting with someone face to face. If that’s not possible, then pick up the phone, or consider showing how 21st century savvy you are and Skype or video conference with a client or colleague. Gauging the reaction of a pitched idea, feeling the tone of the language of the conversation, and learning the body language of the person you’re meeting with is information you need to make critical decisions. Shortcuts and that easy button will cost you that valuable information.

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