You might think that those of us who work in business communication would be able to communicate perfectly. Well, that would be an incorrect assumption. I have found that communication skills require ongoing learning and development. Communicating with everyone in the workplace can be daunting. Just when I think I have mastered a skill, I realize that there are others who may interpret my communication in a way which was not intended.
Being civil is a requirement to communicate effectively with coworkers, customers, vendors and others in the business environment. One way to have a civil conversation is to set a mutual agreement about the purpose, timing, agenda and expected outcome of conversations ahead of time. In other words, to make sure we agree to the rules of engagement. Without understanding the expectations or the rules of the game, chaos and misunderstanding can arise.
To have a civilized dinner, you would normally eat your meal from a plate. I believe civilized business communications should also include a PLATE. PLATE is the acronym I use to remember how to begin and end business conversations.
- Purpose. First, let the other person know why you want to have the conversation. You can’t wait until time runs out and surprise them with a purpose of which they knew nothing. Be up front with why you want to engage in the conversation.
- Limit the time. You must agree on the time limit of the conversation and live up to that agreement. If you need more time, set another mutual agreement as to how much more time is needed, when you will continue and what else needs to be discussed. You can also agree at the beginning to continue the conversation if needed.
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