Guest Post: Walter Mullin on Business Communication


My friend Walter Mullin and I recently got into it about the communication snafus we all see at work.  (Can you say, “email”?)

Walter is a NYC-based consultant who works in Customer Engagement Marketing.  Communication is his bread and butter.   And it’s the glue for our workplace relationships.

Our conversation went from one thing to another, and the idea for a guest post was born!

Without further ado, Walter’s guest post…

5 Things Successful Professionals Know About Business Communication

Technology makes communicating faster.   It doesn’t always make it easier.  Over and over I hear from colleagues about the challenges of communicating effectively in business.

Some people, however, seem to have found the right balance.  Here are five useful tips they follow.

1.  After 4 emails, pick up the phone
If you can’t get the answers you need in four email exchanges, it’s time to pick up the phone!  Not only will you get the information you need more quickly, you may even learn something you didn’t know, or come up with a better way of tackling the problem.

Follow up with a confirming email if you want the written trail of what you discussed.

2.  A phone call gets a phone call back
When someone calls and leaves a message, pick up the phone and call them back.  Do not email, text or IM with “Saw that you called, what’s up?”  The person needed to talk with you live, so demonstrate professional courtesy: return the call.

If you’re pressed for time or unable to call back, then an email or text will suffice as long as you explain why you can’t pick up the phone.

3.  Never deliver bad news in an email
Got some unpleasant news to deliver?  Pick up the phone and do it live – or better yet, walk down the hall and deliver the news in person.

You can’t monitor someone else’s response through email.  You can control your own reaction when you’re talking live.   If the other person overreacts, you can talk them off the ledge.  If the gravity of what’s happening isn’t clear, you can explain it.

Either way, your professional reputation holds up better when you don’t hide behind email.

4.  If you want a “yes”, ask in person
Need someone to say yes?   Meet in person to make the request.  It’s much harder for someone to say no when you’re sitting across the table.  You’re more likely to get a yes — or at least a maybe — when you meet in person or, if distance requires it, talk over the phone.  The same request made through email, text or IM is much easier to turn down.

If it’s important, take the time to tee up the ask live.

5.  Remember the basics.

  • Keep it short.  Shorter emails get read, remembered and reflect back well on the sender.
  • No “text” abbreviations.  “U dnt lk gd in biz if u wrte lk ur txting btw cls in schl.“  This is business – communicate like a professional.
  • Spell check.  People do notice.
  • If you think you shouldn’t, don’t.  Listen to that little voice inside your head that tells you not to put something in email.  It’s probably right.

Walter, thank you so much for writing the first guest post to appear on my blog!   Writing a blog post takes time, effort and expertise.

I appreciate it!

Photo:  A Sailor communicates with the officer of the deck in flight deck control, by Official US Navy Page, via Flickr under Creative Commons license.

The Gift of “No”


Time.   We spend it, and we can’t get it back.

Recent life events have me thinking about implementing a Bloomberg-style countdown clock.  The broader goal:  optimizing my productivity, recovery, and relationships.   Doing what really matters.

Every day, opportunities arise.  Events.  Invitations to connect via social media.  Requests for our participation.  Offers of introductions.

And, oh yeah, my own ideas about what I should, can, or might do.

Sometimes I say yes.  And sometimes, “No, thank you.”

It’s about time, and attention.

I also listen for No, and endeavor to hear it.   Every business owner has to be a salesperson; I’ve been riding quite a learning curve with this skill set.

One lesson learned: there are many flavors of No.

There’s Not Now, which I’ve rarely seen move to a yes.  (Maybe as I become a better salesperson, my conversion rate will improve?)

There’s also Not Yet, which I see as an invitation to build relationship.

Mark Suster recently shared Paul C. Brunson’s simple approach to building relationship:  “I give, give, give, give, give, then ask.”


There’s the Non-Response.   This can be tough to read.   When faced with someone’s Non-Response, I consider relationship, any knowledge about work/family demands they may be feeling, the possibility that my message may not have been received…

And oh, yeah.  The fact that I’m not the center of the universe.

The Non-Response can be a Not Now, a Not Yet, a mixed message, or a missed message.  And sometimes it’s a No.

No can be a difficult conversation.   It may challenge our perception of ourselves as one of the nice guys.

To me, No is a gift.   Whether I’m giving, or receiving.

No need to mark the calendar to follow up.  To send that email or note, or pick up the phone.   No need to ruminate over what may or may not happen.

The gift is clarity.  Honesty.

And most of all, No is the gift of time.   For all parties.

When we open this gift, we can step into a universe of other possibilities.   Discoveries we can make only when we have time to explore.


Photo:  No Hunting Sign 5-9-09 4 by Steven Depolo, via Flickr, under Creative Commons license.  (And wow, you really find some interesting people on Flickr.   Steven’s photostream is filled with interestingness and beauty!)