Communicate Like Air Traffic Control

Why don’t some people let you know when they get your emails, especially when the messages contain important information? Not only is it bad form, but it can set the scene for mistakes.

In today’s business environment, there’s way too much at risk NOT to close the communication loop. There’s an overreliance on assumption. “I assume she got it. I assume she understood it.”

Not always!

Just because you send an email doesn’t mean you communicated anything. And because you received an email doesn’t mean the sender knows you got it—unless you use the Outlook feature that enables this.

My model for closing communication loopholes is the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration’s Air Traffic Control (ATC). Their exchange helps assures that sender and receiver clarify what was said and heard.

Here’s how an ATC exchange might go.

ATC: “United four zero five cleared for takeoff on runway two four right.”

Captain: “Cleared for takeoff, two four right, United four zero five.

ATC: “United four zero five, climb and hold at ten thousand feet.”

Captain: “Climb to ten thousand and hold, United four zero five.”

Now, everyone doesn’t need to exert this much rigor in their communication. In fact, some might consider it a bit anal. Well, ok, perhaps it is too much. But, it’s a hell of a lot better than no response at all.

The point is that when they’re closing the communication loop, the opportunity for mistakes declines while the opportunity for clarity and understanding increases.

People say they’re too busy to respond to emails. Busy is no reason for not doing it right. One of the busiest people I know is a big muckety-muck for a large corporation. He responds to every email, even if it’s simply, “Got it.”

Works for me.

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