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New {financial} year’s resolutions

End of financial year sales, shorter days and tax returns all signal that we’re half way through the year.

It can be a hectic time, with the arrival of July suddenly creating a rush to finish old projects and start new ones.Amid the frenetic busyness, it can be easy to slip into bad communication habits.

Here’s five simple ways you can improve your professional communication, in the process nurturing and bolstering the relationships you have in your network.

1. Pick up the phone
Emailing is easy; almost too easy. Take the time to call colleagues, clients and customers – it not only shows that you are making time to talk to them one-on-one, but you’re also more likely to get the information you need straight away without having to wait for an email response. Vocal emphasis and tone greatly affect how we interpret words, which is why we can often be left confused, mistaken or even offended at some of the emails we receive.

2. Email with care
Of course emails do have their place in getting things done. On average, workers send and receive 121 business-related emails each day and this is set to increase to at least 140 by 2018. When you’re dealing with so many throughout the day it’s easy to make a careless mistake. At the very least, mistakes like spelling and punctuation can be embarrassing. At the very worst, mistakes like sending emails to the wrong people can have legal and professional ramifications. Instead of “firing off a few emails”, proof read them before you press send, check who you’re sending them to (be wary of the ‘reply all’ function), and always include an email signature (even on reply emails).

3. Communicate with purpose
Whether you’re speaking to someone in person, on the phone or by email, be clear what the purpose of this dialogue is. Are you seeking information, agreement, guidance or action? By being clear in your own mind about what you are hoping to achieve from a particular interaction, there’s a far better chance that the person you’re communicating with will understand it too.

4. Be first with the bad news
Whether you need to tell someone about job losses, a bad result or a simple mistake, it’s best to take control of the situation by being proactive and honest. There is a golden period of time when your stakeholders will better receive the news if they’re told by you directly, rather than hearing it on the grapevine. Take heart in the fact that more often than not, it’s the way an incident is handled, rather than the incident itself, that is remembered.

5. Maintain your credibility
“Srsly thx 4 ur msg” might be a suitable text message to send a friend while you’re on the run, but this kind of shorthand doesn’t paint you in the best light professionally. Guard your professional reputation and credibility by being more mindful of the words you use and how you use them. In particular, think about whether you are articulating yourself, your experience and your skills in the best possible light.