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Giving Context When Sending Information

How to make yourself more useful to the people you work with.

By
Stever Robbins
4-minute read
Episode #55

Tell Them What We're Thinking

When you’re giving someone information, remember that they have no idea why you’re giving it to them. “Because they asked for it!” you say. Well, they did ask for it. But that was 15 minutes ago, when their mind was somewhere else entirely. Maybe Mars. Or maybe on the other 5,000 projects they’re involved in.

So assume nothing. When you give information, ask yourself “Why should they care?” Then write that down in the cover letter. Make it really clear, so when they get it, they can quickly get context. You want to help them decide, first, whether they even need to read the info or just file it for future reference. If you want them to read it, let them know how to fit your info into their mindset, job, and goals.

For example: Dear team, Here are the 75 pages of Charlie Munger’s lecture. I’m sending it because I thought page 45, paragraph three, footnote two has a great idea we can use to organize our new football team.

If you’re writing a report, tell people which sections are relevant to them. If you’re giving them something they asked for, remind them that they asked for it. They may have forgotten. If you’re giving them something that will make their life easier, be sure to say that. Most people love getting messages that start off, “I’m sending you something that will make your life easier.” (Personally, I love getting messages that start off, “Remember I promised if I won the MegaBucks Sweepstakes, I’d give you ten million dollars? Well, it just so happens…”)

If you’re giving them something to review, tell them so, and tell them what feedback you want. “Here’s the proposed summer catalog cover. Please tell me what you think about the lime jello theme. It’s my most creative, yet!”

Don’t assume people know what you’re thinking. Don’t assume they remember context. Go to the trouble of anticipating their every desire and you’ll soon have a loyal following.

This is Stever Robbins. Email questions to getitdone@quickanddirtytips.com or leave voicemail at 866-WRK-LESS. If you’re bogged down with email, conquer it with my audio program You Are Not Your Inbox: Overcoming E-Mail overload at YouAreNotYourInbox.com.

Work Less, Do More, and have a Great Life!

Man on Computer image courtesy of Shutterstock

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About the Author

Stever Robbins

Stever Robbins was the host of the podcast Get-it-Done Guy from 2007 to 2019. He is a graduate of W. Edward Deming’s Total Quality Management training program and a Certified Master Trainer Elite of NLP. He holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a BS in Computer Sciences from MIT.