How I failed at communicating in 2013

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I know a lot of you out there struggled in 2013.

Ok, I'm guessing here, but I hope that I wasn't the only one. Is that some sort of schadenfreude that I secretly hope others found 2013 really tough?

Let's just assume that a few of you got your butts kicked last year.

I thought I'd share one of my failures, and hopefully one that others can relate to. This isn't a specific event or date. It's really an entire area of my business that I really dropped the ball on throughout the year.

Communication

Yes, that's a really broad category, but I've used it intentionally.

I really, truly suck at certain forms of communication. Not all of them. I have the physical and mental ability to speak, write, and listen. You know...the biggies. I'm just not very good at doing them consistently, and in a timely manner.

I like to fall back on the bookkeeper stereotypes, and allow you to imagine the quiet, nameless face in a cubicle that doesn't like to stand out from the crowd. Somewhere between Bob Cratchitt and Milton from Office Space.

That's not really accurate, but it's an easy way to sum up the situation.

A lot of people go from being an employee to a business owner and struggle with the business management side of things. They don't know how to do the bookkeeping, the taxes, and the other boring admin work that needs to be done.

I'm fine with all that. I'm just not very good with the interactions. As a lifelong introvert, this isn't a career-specific afflication. If you made me work out for an hour one day, and hang out at a party another day...I'd be 10x more exhausted after an hour of small talk.

That's not a big deal when you're an employee. Let's face it...nobody goes out of their way to talk to "accounting". It's a huge deal when you're the only one who answers the phones and responds to the emails.

(at this point I'd like to take a break and silently pray that somebody else relates to this)

My failures fall into 2 big categories: phone calls and emails.

Phone calls: I dislike few things less in life than phone calls. I'm a planner, and not particularly spontaneous. I like to have some time to prepare my answers. Many times I find myself so stressed about the call itself that I blank on answers I usually know by heart. That makes me sound like an idiot, which really isn't good when you're trying to convince someone to let you handle their financial records.

I tend to push people toward email, which is my favourite form of communication. Unfortunately, it has its own separate set of problems.

Email: I love email. I can write, delete, rewrite, edit, and craft the exact words I want to say for as long as I want. And, most times, nobody is on the other end waiting for a response at a certain time of day. It's the perfect form of communication for an introvert. My problem here is quite different from my problem with phone calls.

I spend WAY too much time writing email. I don't mean I spend a few minutes each on 100's of emails every day. I mean I can sometimes spend hours writing one reply. Anyone who has asked me a broad question on a slow day will be able to vouch for this. Someone will email me one question and I will come back with 800 words.

I'm sure a lot of times I have provided some genuinely useful information for those people. I know I've been thanked many times for my exhaustive answers. The problem here is time. If I see an email that I know will take me more than 2 minutes to reply to...I put it off. I want to craft the perfect response, which takes time. If I know I don't have the time, I don't reply at all until I do. By the time I have sat down and crafted the "perfect email", the recipient has become frustrated by the slow response time and has found the answer elsewhere. Now, instead of looking like an idiot on the phone, I look like a jerk for ignoring their email.

Now what?

So why did I tell you all of this? Well, one thing is to publicly apologize if you were affected by this. It wasn't personal...except in the sense that I personally blew it.

The other reason is to let my fellow introverts know that it's normal to struggle with this. (once again...please tell me I'm not alone here)

It's going to be hard to get shot down by prospects, or mess up a question from someone you respect. Don't even get me started on trying to get interviewed on the phone (bad, bad memories). Like anything else, just keep at it. You'll get better. I have. As bad as I was in 2013, I was much worse before, and I'll be a little better in 2014.

What about you?

Care to share what you messed up in 2013? Be as vague or as brutally specific as you'd like.

Eric Matthews

I'm a bookkeeper, husband, dad, music junkie, and general tech geek. When I'm a bookkeeper, I focus on cloud bookkeeping. I write at ThatBookkeeper.com, which helps bookkeepers and business owners move their books online. I work with apps like FreshBooks, Xero, Kashoo, Wave, and QuickBooks Online.

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