Any man who has ever tried to provide driving instructions to his significant other already has a full understanding of the purpose for a reflective email. Though I would never suggest sending the significant other an email with the directions, the man already knows that within 5 minutes he will get a call and have to start over with which turn is next and what the road will look like.
My point here is that people can only retain so much. Even taking notes during a conversation doesn’t always do the trick. Sometimes valuable instructions are missed or forgotten.
Communication is an amazing thing. It takes on a life of its own from one person to another. Language is deeply immersed in an individual’s culture. That being said, the degree of understanding is profoundly impacted by how something is said as well as the level of comprehension on a matter. During verbal instruction, the direction is given. One way to make sure that the directions are followed is by sending a follow-up email. The email should be a summary of the conversation and highlight any action items or tasks that need to be accomplished. It should not rehash the conversation again.
This is twofold. A person may have a list of what they want to be accomplished sitting in front of them during the conversation. Maybe there wasn’t time for a list. In either case, when one sits down and makes a list of directions he or she may realize that pertinent information was inadvertently left out of the conversation. To revisit interpretation, the person receiving direction may not have gotten everything the first time around. An email providing a complete rendering of the verbal direction is helpful for both parties.
- Record (Cover Your Tail)
It is always important to make sure that your bases are covered. Depending on someone else’s integrity or memory is a sketchy plan, at best. Plus, with all the conversations and emails I go through in a day, it is a wonder that at 5 pm I still remember my first name. Once the verbal instruction is given, only the people in the conversation are privy to it. A reflection email makes it so that both sides have something to fall back on should there be an issue with the matter in the future.
Again, men do not send reflection emails to your significant other after verbal direction. That will only bring you misery. If the verbal instruction is provided in a professional forum, make sure to keep it professional. Sending an email outlining what was discussed is a lot like sending a thank you note after an interview or including a cover letter with a resume. It is a professional way to make sure the information stands out.
- Reflection (Questions from the instructed party)
In my experience, when I’m receiving verbal instruction I like to write down the main points and I like to make sure that I’m understanding what is being requested of me. Sometimes, the conversation gets a little off track. When I receive a reflective email after verbal instruction, it gives me a little extra time to interpret what was said and formulate any extra questions that I might have. If I find that I need to ask more questions, there is no need for me to go into an explanation about my query. I can simply reply to the email with my question near the correlating instruction in a different color.
- Check List
One of the main reasons I appreciate a reflective email after the verbal instruction is because it allows me to work through a comprehensive list of what needs to be accomplished. Being able to run through item by item and check off what I have gotten accomplished affords me the ability to provide a timeframe for completion as well as a way to stay on track. Both of these things are of extreme importance in a professional atmosphere.
Technically speaking, an email outlining an instructional conversation is a reference. The idea is that the person accomplishing the tasks set forth in the original conversation will have something to look back on. It is a way to ensure proper completion of the direction. When used properly, the “Check List” aspect and the “Reference” aspect work as one.
- Flow of Communication
It is important to ensure a good flow of communication. Of course, verbal communication is very important. Much can be encompassed in a few short minutes by speaking with someone else. However, in this age, there are a number of different ways to communicate. It is important to utilize as many forms of communication as necessary. An email outlining a directional conversation is just another form of communication. The email also provides the opportunity for the instructor to indicate availability to address any concerns or questions on the matter.
There are pros for both parties. They can be sure the directions were detailed and complete. They can also revisit the email as many times as needed to get the job done. In reality, sending a follow-up email only takes a few minutes and it manages to alleviate confusion, frustration, and incomplete tasks. It isn’t necessarily the email itself that opens the lines of communication, but more the act of sending it. As far as business best practices, a reflective email after verbal instruction should be an integral part of any professional company.
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