A SEAT at THE TABLE: Conversations with Today's Top Industry Leaders

Simple Ways to Make Email and Text Messages More Effective

November 06, 2022 Rob Ashton, founder, Emphasis Season 9 Episode 23
A SEAT at THE TABLE: Conversations with Today's Top Industry Leaders
Simple Ways to Make Email and Text Messages More Effective
Show Notes Transcript

Mention written communication and most people immediately call you out for being ‘old school’.

Yet today more than ever before most of our communication is actually written.  In fact, many argue that verbal communication is now a thing of the past.

From email to text messages, we spend most of our days writing -  to customers, team members,  friends and even family.  

Unfortunately, while technology has made written communication faster and easier, it has not made it better.  More often than not, it’s made it worse.

From misunderstandings to misintrerpeted messages - our writing can be our downfall.

But are there short cuts or techniques - or forgotten rules - that can help us make this better? 

I’m Jane Singer and thank you for joining me here on A Seat at The Table.

It is my pleasure to have written communications expert Rob Ashton with us today.

In 1998 Rob founded Emphasis, a global learning company that has enabled more than 80,000 people to make much more impact with their professional writing. 

His advice has been sought by everyone from the tech giants of Silicon Valley to the Royal Household at Buckingham Palace.

Rob has been investigating the brain science of reading and writing for more than six years, giving him a unique insight into why so much of our written communication fails. He says writing is ‘the invisible medium, hidden in plain sight’.

Today Rob will be talking about:

  • Typical mistakes that can make many of the messages we write backfire.
  • What a neural circuit breaker is - and why they stop us from getting the decisions we want.
  • The real (and surprising) reason that email makes us angry.
  • Why often its better to not write, but to talk instead.

One of the most difficult things to write is a job description.  I always struggle with this.  And yet it is a critical part of being able attract the right talent to your business. 

The competition to find top talent and fill those critical position is one of the biggest challenges companies face these days - especially in certain markets.

That’s why top corporations and even smaller enterprises rely on Asianet Consultants to help them fill key positions.  Since 1988 Asianet has been working in partnership with its global clients to help them make the right strategic hires.  They have a well-earned reputation for being able to fill even those difficult to fill positions.

So if you need to recruit new talent - or think that you might be doing that soon, head on over to their website. That’s asiannetconsultants.com.

Now let’s learn from Rob how to improve our written communication.


Asianet Consultants:  www.asianetconsultants.com

Connect with Rob Ashton:

Follow Rob Ashton:  https://www.facebook.com/robashtonwrites

Rob Ashton on Twitter:  https://twitter.com/robert_ashton

Ephasis website: http://www.writing-skills.com/

Visit A Seat at The Table's website at https://seat.fm

Jane Singer  00:02

Mentioned written communication and most people immediately call you out for being old school. Yet today more than ever before most of our communication is actually written. In fact, many argue that verbal communication is now a thing of the past. 

Jane Singer  00:16

From email to text messages, we spend most of our days writing to customers, team members, friends, and even family. Unfortunately, while technology has made written communication faster and easier, it has not made it better. More often than not, it's made it worse. 

Jane Singer  00:32

From misunderstandings to misinterpreted messages, our writing can be our downfall. But are there shortcuts or techniques or forgotten rules that can help us make this better? 

Jane Singer  00:43

I'm Jane singer. And thank you for joining me here today on the seat at the table. It is my pleasure to have written communications expert Rob Ashton with us today. 

Jane Singer  00:52

In 1998, Rob founded emphasis a global learning company that has enabled more than 80,000 people to make much more impact with their professional writing. His advice has been sought by everyone from tech giants in Silicon Valley, to the royal household at Buckingham Palace. 

Jane Singer  01:09

Rob has been investigating brain science of reading and writing for more than six years, giving him a unique insight into why so much of our written communication fails. He says writing is the invisible medium hidden in plain sight. 

Jane Singer  01:23

Today, Rob will be talking about typical mistakes that can make many of the messages we write backfire.What a neural circuit breaker is, and why they stop us from getting the decisions we want. The real and surprising reason that email makes us angr; and why it's often better not to write, but to talk instead. 

Jane Singer  01:42

One of the most difficult things to write as a job description. I always struggle with this. And yet, it's a critical part of being able to attract the right talent to your business. 

Jane Singer  01:51

The competition to find top talent and fill those critical positions is one of the biggest challenges companies face these days, especially in certain markets. 

Jane Singer  02:00

That's why top corporations and even smaller enterprises rely on Asianet consultants to help them fill key positions. 

Jane Singer  02:08

Since 1988. Asianet has been working in partnership with its global clients to help them make the right strategic hires, they have a well earned reputation for being able to fill even those difficult to fill positions. So if you need to recruit new talent, or you think you might be doing that soon, head on over to their website. That's Asianet consultants.com Asianet consultants.com. Now let's learn from Rob how to improve our written communication.

Jane Singer  02:36

Rob, I am really thrilled to have you on a seat at the table, I think what you have to talk about is something that many people are going to find incredibly useful. I know I'm keen to hear what you have to say. So thank you very much for taking the time to join us. 

Rob Ashton  02:52

Thank you, Jane for inviting me, it's a pleasure to be here. 

Jane Singer  02:55

So I think if we just dive into it, your expertise is in communicating effectively through the written word, if I'm understanding that, and I hope I haven't misinterpreted what you do. But it's certainly something that we all face. 

Jane Singer  03:09

Because in business, we do a wide variety of writing, we don't think of ourselves as writers. But as you point out from critical reports that you have to prepare for management or possibly for investors, even to simple emails, we actually do a lot of writing. 

Jane Singer  03:23

And you point out that many of the messages we write backfire, why is this what are we doing wrong? What should we be doing differently? 

Rob Ashton  03:31

Well, first of all, you're absolutely right. It's all about writing. And pretty much nothing else. Writing is something that we just we take for granted, it's something we've become increasingly reliant on, almost without noticing. 

Rob Ashton  03:45

I set up a consultancy, to look at this called emphasis back in 1998. And back then, people were talking about whether we will be doing less writing and whether writing was on the way out, you know whether that was a skill that was going to become redundant. And what's happened is the opposite we've become, we've become almost totally reliant on writing, we just don't realize it, we don't see it. 

Rob Ashton  04:09

As such, you might think of sending emails, we don't think so much of writing emails are far more likely to send an instant message or a text message than to pick up the phone. In fact, if my if my phone rings, I assume something's wrong. So it's this activity that's just become hidden in plain sight. And it's like a common thread that runs through everything we do, not just our working lives, but our personal lives.

Rob Ashton  04:35

I've seen people stay for hours in text messaging and trying to resolve complex issues, when in fact, you know, they, they could probably resolve it a lot more quickly. If they weren't in text messaging, but we stay stuck in it. We keep doing it. It's something that draws us in. We're far more likely to write to people than to speak to them unless they're in the same room as us and sometimes even when they're in the same room as us.

Rob Ashton  05:00

It's just something that's become more pervasive. In fact, the latest data is that last year, we were sending 319 billion email messages sending and receiving 319 billion email messages every day. And that figure is going up by 15 to 20 billion per day, per year. And that doesn't take account of these instant messaging platforms that are spoken about and things like an alternatives like WhatsApp, and slack and work in work, and social media, much of which is written to do these days, it seems to be writing all the way which is we just don't really see that we don't notice it. 

Jane Singer  05:41

You know, it's interesting, you point that out. And I hadn't thought about it. But you're right, people were saying that, well, now that we have email, and like you said, well, the messaging apps, nobody's talking to each other anymore, and no one's going to be writing anymore. And as it turns out, everybody is writing? I think that's a good point. I hadn't thought of that, either, until you brought it up. 

Jane Singer  06:01

Now, you mentioned that, you know, often times we're not communicating effectively through our writing. I mean, what are we doing wrong? Where do you see the train jumping the tracks? 

Rob Ashton  06:12

Yeah, I think it comes down to probably two things. One is under estimating the complexity of reading and writing is something we take completely for granted. And this is why I think we don't notice the written word or realize we're relying on the written word. And the other is that we overestimate our our capacity, our mental capacity for information. And those two things are connected. So let me explain. 

Rob Ashton  06:41

Written Communication is something that we didn't evolve to do, okay, it's something our brains were not born with brains that are set up for reading, that's very different from from speaking and listening, we evolved to speak and listen not to read and write. So if you look at the human brain, in an infant, newborn infant, it has both the the is almost pre programmed to learn to speak and to listen to language, it's pre programmed to be receptive to spoken language. 

Rob Ashton  07:14

And you see this with children, they pick up their native language without being taught to do it, they pick it up passively, just by you know, as long as they're surrounded by people who are speaking, as long as people are speaking to them, then they will develop their native language. And even that they'll develop, learn the grammar of it, they don't know the terms, of course, but they'll work out the rudiments of grammar and how to structure a sentence. And you even see this in kids when they make grammar mistakes. And it's because they've picked it up. 

Rob Ashton  07:41

So instead of saying, take the word lie and say, you know, he lied, and they put a D on the end. And they know that that's the grammar there. But if they might take the word see and say he sees it, instead of he saw, it's you know that they've actually lived that they're starting to get it. 

Rob Ashton  07:57

Now, that doesn't happen with reading and writing. This is why it takes us so long, it takes us years, you can't teach yourself to read just by looking at text. And we know this, because if you take an alphabet that you're not familiar with, so I don't know, it could be Hebrew, could be Arabic, and you look at those letters, they won't mean anything to you. And you could stare at them all day, every day, and they still wouldn't mean anything to you, you need this dedicated study, you need dedicated tuition. 

Rob Ashton  08:26

So it's complex, reading is really complex. It involves wiring together lots of different parts of the brain that we evolved for other things. It involves multiple parts of the brain. And it's hard. So we learn to do this. And then we take it for granted. But that effort reduces but it never goes away entirely. So reading and writing are harder than speaking and listening. So when we're reading something we are having to, we can take in less information. And we have less capacity for thought and emotional control. 

Rob Ashton  09:05

And the same as when we're writing we're trying to get a point across when we're writing. It's there's a limit is a limit to the capacity and it's a much smaller limit, then there would be if we were speaking and listening. And that's where it goes wrong. Because we think that writing is just a case of transferring information from one head to another. And that if we do that, I can just, I just give them the information, and they will make a decision. And they will see what I'm talking about. And and I will get the result I'm after. And in fact, what often happens is the opposite. Right? 

Jane Singer  09:41

Yeah, I think that's definitely true. And you're right, we don't really think about it until you brought this up. Now I hadn't really thought about the process behind learning to read and write versus learning to speak a language. So it's really interesting what you're bringing up. How do we overcome some of this, how might we approach it differently? 

Rob Ashton  10:03

I think the first the first thing is to just be aware. So even just being aware that writing is different, and reading are different from speaking and listening, you just need to know that if I'm using the written word from texting, if I'm emailing, if I'm responding to somebody on Facebook, or Twitter or Instagram, you know, I'm commenting, there's a limit to it's a psychologist call it a low capacity channel, okay? So there's a limit to how much you can get across. And I don't just mean the words, I mean, the emotions, the feeling the tone. 

Rob Ashton  10:35

So just know that if you are writing, you're already at a disadvantage. So so be aware. And then the next thing is to is to question really, whether what you are doing whether writing is the best way to convey that information. And whether really, you should be speaking to the person, you know, and that you should be, you should be going to see them, or you should be picking up the phone, I mentioned about being stuck in text conversations, some of those can be arguments that lasts for hours. 

Rob Ashton  11:08

And if you just move that phone from in front of your face up to your ear, and speak to the person, you can probably resolve it in a few minutes. There is something that happens here and some research a number of years ago that looked at what happens in our bodies, what happens in our brains, what hormones are released, how things change, when we're reading compared with when we're when we're listening. And it found that when we listen to somebody, we release oxytocin. And oxytocin is It's been called the hug hormone or the love hormone. 

Rob Ashton  11:45

But that's oversimplifying it, but it's something that is that is essential for social interaction modulates our emotions, and our thoughts and what we're saying. And that's released when you hear someone's voice when you hear a human voice. But when you're reading, what this research showed, is that it's not released. Now, it was just a couple of pieces of research. And that, you know, I think there's definitely more work to do on that. 

Rob Ashton  12:10

But I think what that does is, is hint at the difference, just how we respond to reading and writing versus or rather how we respond to the human voice, you know, you can be stuck in an argument on email. And I've done this myself, I was I was in a tense situation on Slack, the instant messaging system we use in our office, and I asked somebody for an update on a project, and there was something in his response that made me think he's getting upset, you know, I said, Can I have an update? He said, why? It was like, Oh, just that one word, you know, and we tried to resolve it on Slack. And, and after just two or three messages, you could just see this thing was going south, you know, this was gonna get really tense. 

Rob Ashton  12:52

And he had the presence of mind just to say, can we have a chat? Or, you know, to type back? Yeah, sure. And he came into my office. And we started speaking, and I've got to tell you, as soon as we started speaking, was almost magical, you know, my shoulders dropped, his shoulders dropped it, we both relaxed, and you could almost feel a, you know, a, something kind of flowing through you like kind of an emotion washing over you or kind of a mutual understanding building. If that research is right, that that could be very real, that could be oxytocin being released. 

Rob Ashton  13:25

If you've got something that's really difficult to understand. And you're trying to get multiple points across, pick up the phone, if you've got something that's emotionally challenging, pick up the phone, don't try to use writing for that, because it's a lot of heavy lifting. And it's too much for it really. 

Jane Singer  13:45

Yes, it's a really good point. Because in writing, being able to write dialogue is very difficult. It takes a tremendous skill to be able to capture that emotion in where in the written word and convey it. So certainly for those of us who are not professional at writing, it's not easy. And I think you're right about the fact that if you just talk to people, but I suppose people feel intimidated, right to call someone, they feel that you almost feel like you have you can hide behind, I suppose not wanting to say it that way, but can't think of a better way to say it. You can hide behind an email more easily than having to actually talk to someone. 

Rob Ashton  14:26

Totally. And I think this is why we're probably it's this idea that we're not communicating is not quite right, communicating more than we've ever done. We send far more emails and text messages than we ever used to speak to each other or, you know, go back to a long way, but letters, we're sending all of these things. We're writing all of these things, which if you think you could go back to the 1970s that would have been memos which email evolved from there, go back further than that would have been letters, and of course in person meetings phone calls, where we are communicating way more now that we're using these these text based platforms tools. 

Rob Ashton  15:09

It's partly I think that, yes, we do hide, we do feel protected by this. But it's partly also that it enables us to communicate more than we might have done before. It's just that sometimes, all of that communication is a good thing, that there is something else going on, though, to your point about about height, whether it's hiding or not. And I think that's because we see our screens as an extension of our brains. 

Rob Ashton  15:33

So we live in this screen, or on this screen, if you get stuck on your phone, that phrase, you know, you're stuck on your phone, it's because your phone feels part of you when you're looking at it. And when you are, when you're typing on a screen, those words that appear on that screen, are just a kind of a manifestation of your thoughts, okay, and you're reading them back. And they make sense to you. But as soon as you press send, it's a very different thing that the other person is going to receive. 

Rob Ashton  16:05

And part of the reason for that is, those those words are not a complete manifestation of your thoughts, they are just part of it, you know, they're one part of the signal. And the bit that you're hearing as well that they can't hear that the recipient can't hear is the voice in your head, right? I

Rob Ashton  16:22

t's the facts that go with it. And it's like a backing track, we have this inner monologue. And when we're typing, we hear the tone, we know what we mean, we have all the background, we know things you can't unknown things. And then the recipient doesn't doesn't have that voice that's in your head, they have the voice that's in their head. And they probably don't have your background knowledge. And they can't detect or they can try to detect your emotions. 

Rob Ashton  16:50

But usually, it's very, very difficult and give a rough approximation. And obviously, you can go really wrong. And they have this voice in their head. And you know, it's kind of like they have their own backing track. And you're trying to get them to listen to yours, which they can't hear anyway, because it's just in your head and not in there. So it's kind of it's much more complex than we think. We really overestimate how much people can understand from our from our communication, how much people can kind of intuit what we might be thinking.

Rob Ashton  17:22

There was a study ran 10 years ago, where sorry, no, forgive me was a lot longer. It was in the days in the early 90s. Actually, apologies. But it's called tappers and listeners as a psychologist at Stanford University. And what she did was she got people to tap out, well known tunes well known songs, and to estimate so when I mean tap out, I just mean, you know, a tap on the desk, tap on a board. So just the rhythm of the tune, and to estimate how many people out of 100 would be able to guess the tune from the tapping, and they were well known tunes, like, you know, happy birthday or something like that. 

Rob Ashton  17:58

And the tappers estimated that around half of the listeners would be able to name the tune just from their tapping. But the actual figure was two and a half percent on average. Oh, really? Just two and a half percent. Yes. So we vastly overestimate how much information people can get from the our communication rather how much the almost, I guess what we're what we're saying is we overestimate their ability for telepathy.

Rob Ashton  18:28

And yet, we base an awful lot of our communication on that we assume that their party or previous thoughts when they're not. 

Jane Singer  18:36

Now that we know that you've shared that, how can we use that knowledge in a sense to either influence the decisions by those we lead or report to or just people we're communicating with? How do we take that and put practical application? 

Rob Ashton  18:52

Well, it's advanced topics. Short answer, and I'm not going to try to give you the long one, don't worry, but I think that first of all, just be aware of what writing is, is think of it as reading, reading is seeing dots and squiggles on a page or on a screen and hearing a voice in your head. So your job is to make it the right voice because seeing dots and squiggles and hearing a voice. That's a miracle of adaptation. It's hard work. 

Rob Ashton  19:18

So just know straight away that what you are doing is far more complex that than it may appear. But also there are some things you can do. So I would say that, for instance, don't overcomplicate things is complex already read. So don't overcomplicate things Be selective, you are probably going to overestimate how much information somebody can take on board from your writing. We used to have this idea of a magic number seven where we could take in seven pieces of information. And that dates back to research and 50s. 

Rob Ashton  19:55

It's more like three that research has been updated. It's more like three sometimes it's the as low as two, when you're reading something you're using your working memory to kind of hold this information in your temporary memory while you're making decisions. And that can get overloaded very, very quickly. And you will overestimate how much that person can take on board, you will overestimate how much they know about the topic, because you will underestimate if you know a lot about a topic, you will underestimate how much you really know. 

Rob Ashton  20:27

And you will overestimate how much other people know. So you will end up giving them way too much information. And if you overdo that, the effects will be that you will get either a very strange decision or no decision. So very easily over overload the brain and get no decision. So reduce the amount of information you give. And the next thing I would say is make sure that you can capture their attention. And that you can keep them reading. 

Rob Ashton  20:57

So make what you read, easy to read, we have this idea that that simple writing is, is kind of dumbing down, you know, somehow infantile and will undermine our credibility, we you should be trying to connect and impress people with your ideas, not with your language, not with your flowery words, because those things are harder to process. And if you if you give them stuff that's harder to process, remember, reading is difficult anyway. 

Rob Ashton  21:27

So the more effort they have to use to decode or decipher your flowery language, then the less capacity they will have to take on board, your opinions and your recommendations. There's a there's a psychology effect called the fluency heuristic, which means that the easier something is to process, the more likely we are to believe it, and to be influenced by it. So you are helping yourself by making things easy to read. And I don't mean leave out all jargon, you should be using the words that if you're going to use technical words, that's fine. If they are the audience's technical words, if they're the words they use, that's great. 

Rob Ashton  22:11

But it's the words in between that cause the problem by using three or four words when you could just use one, those build up and you overload the decision makers brain or the recipients brain? And it usually backfires. So do the opposite, make it easy to process and make it flow. Don't overcomplicate it, don't use too much information. 

Jane Singer  22:33

Those are such good points. And I think you're right, we all fall into that trap of wanting to sound more professional and more polished. So we offer bigger words are more complex sentence structures. And as you're pointing out, and I think quite correctly, you know, as you're saying this, I'm thinking about actual examples myself. And I'm thinking yeah, actually, he's right. It's so tedious to read that kind of thing. And you get lost in the word so to speak. So you point to the importance of a neural circuit break? Can you share a little bit about what that means and how we should be using that? 

Rob Ashton  23:07

Yes, so this was a neat piece of research on this, which looked at the activity in the brain, and an area called the name doesn't matter. It's called the dorsal lateral prefrontal cortex, but it's an area that's involved in decision making. Okay, it's involved in lots of other things, but it is central to decision making. And what the researchers did was they they asked people to make decisions, they gave him something called a combinatorial auction, which is how airlines built a bid for slots for their planes, what they have to do is take into account lots of different factors predict the price of fuel predict availability of pilots to predict demand, so loads of things. 

Rob Ashton  23:45

So these things are really complex. And they use this in the experiment that gave people that kind of decision, it gave them more and more information, and asked them to make decisions. And what they noticed was that there came a point that the more information I gave them beyond a certain point, the the less rational, their decisions became. 

Rob Ashton  24:06

So he started to make really weird decisions. It's like, why would you do that? Why would you give make, why would you decide to do that makes no sense. So that was that was interesting. But what they also found was the activity in this area of the brain, this decision making area beyond a certain point, just fell off a cliff just kind of shut down. And that's what I mean by this neural circuit breaker. If you give people too much information, for a start, you could get the decision you don't want or an irrational decision, presumably, both, you know, presumably wanting to make a rational decision. 

Rob Ashton  24:39

But go beyond that. And you'll get no decision at all people would just freeze and that ties in with other things. We have a thing called status quo bias where when we're uncertain, we will stick with what we know will stick with what we've got already. True. We have this default where we kind of think the more information you give, the easier it will be to make the decision

Rob Ashton  25:00

I'm gonna give this person all the information they need. And then they will make the decision. And it doesn't work like that. But that's not how the brain works. You can think of this sometimes if people want your advice. I mean, I've seen this in organizations where people will be asked by somebody who's Senior to them to write a report on something. And what that more junior person will do is just give them everything they know, on it, everything they found. And, you know, if they wanted the internet, they would have used the internet.

Rob Ashton  25:28

When you're giving someone information to make a decision, be selective think, what is where are they? What do they need? What is most likely to influence them? How can I help? And then how can I be selective? What do they not need to know? 

Rob Ashton  25:44

You know, if you're looking writing something thing? Do they need to know this today? Or am I just reading that to help my thinking, or to show that I've done my homework? Because if that's the case, you're probably not helping as much as you think you are? And it could well backfire? 

Jane Singer  25:59

Yeah, I think that's a really good thing to point out that, again, you don't really think about it until someone like yourself brings it up. And and you point out why. And then you think to yourself, yeah, it makes perfect sense. So it's really interesting to sort of look at how we communicate. 

Jane Singer  26:18

Now you have some interesting thoughts on email, Speaking of the devil, and you say that there's a real reason why email makes us angry. What's that? 

Rob Ashton  26:29

Well, it applies to social media to  And that's that this idea of over cognitive overload, you know, when you're reading, you are already using up a lot more capacity new than you think, which leaves less capacity for emotional control. But the other thing is that the other reason is that we can read email anywhere now. Almost literally anywhere.  You know, maybe underwater in a swimming pool, we're not going to do that. But it's everywhere else, we can read our email, as long as we've got our phone with us. 

Rob Ashton  27:03

When you when you send an email to somebody, you have no idea where they're going to be when they receive it. And so it it could, it could be that it's not the email that's making them angry, or making you angry, but you think it is. 

Rob Ashton  27:17

So another cognitive bias we have is called called the effect heuristic. And it really, it means that when we're experiencing a certain emotion, we will look for things around us that confirm that we're right to feel that emotion. 

Rob Ashton  27:31

And I've embarrassing example, from my own life, where I was looking for something in a closet under the eaves of my office, here, and above this cupboard, steel girders, okay. And I was rooting around for this, and I stood up, and I banged my head on this steel girder. And I felt it was awful. And for even as I describe it, I feel a shiver down my neck. But it was it was really visceral. 

Rob Ashton  27:57

And then I kind of regained my composure after a few minutes, and I sat down at my desk, and there was an email from a conference organizer asking me something. And I looked at this, and I just, I just saw read, I just thought, you know, what, are you stupid is kind of this crazy idea. Why would you do that? And I replied, in kind, I was quite I wasn't rude, I don't think but I was quite terse, certainly didn't give him the benefit of the doubt. I misinterpreted what he said, essentially, because I know this, because after 20 minutes, when I calm down properly, I looked at the email again, and it was perfectly benign, it was a perfectly reasonable request that he'd sent. And I totally misinterpreted it. 

Rob Ashton  28:39

And what I've done is I've overlaid my anger and pain from banging my head on top of his email. And, you know, we do this too, if you're in a traffic jam, or you're late for dropping the kids off at school, or you're running for a meeting. And in a misguided attempt, as we often do, when we're stressed, we look at our phone to get some kind of relief, and you see an email. And if you're in a stress situation, then quite often you will, you will think it's the email that's triggered you and it's causing the problem. So it's those two things. 

Rob Ashton  29:13

The other thing is that most reading is, this is one thing I haven't mentioned, most reading is prediction. So we don't see what's there. We see what we expect to be there. And then we our brain updates it. And we do this with our vision. Our eyes aren't, aren't sophisticated enough to take in all the things we see. I'm sat here in my home office outside, I can see the garden, I can see the sky and see the trees. I can see everything in front of me and it's a very complex picture. My eye is not producing most of that my brain is the act most of that activity comes from the brain and your eye. Your brain then takes a signal from the eye and updates it. And it's the same with when we're reading email when we're reading it.

Rob Ashton  29:59

So, we are predicting what it's saying what it's going to say. So we're seeing what we expect to see what's actually there. And your eye is checking. And this is why we miss our biggest mistakes, why we miss typos. Or  say, we think we've said one thing when we've said another is because we are also seeing what we expect to see when we're writing. And, or when we're reading back what we've written. So that is another reason that you send someone an email, often, and we do the same when we're reading it, reading what we're expecting to see. 

Rob Ashton  30:35

So again, if you're wanting a decision, or if you're if you're slightly irritated with someone, or if they've got if they haven't delivered for you before, then that you overlay your your free judgment, if you like, into that, and you read what you expect to see. So that's that's another reason that can backfire. And another reason that any written communication, including social media can also make us angry. 

Jane Singer  31:00

It's such a good point. And I think that's something that's very true, we don't really think about it from that point of view, but it is actually really accurate. Rob, what's the one piece of advice that you would give someone who wants to get more decisions to go their way? 

Rob Ashton  31:17

I would say, to do everything you can to put yourself in the recipients shoes in the decision makers shoes. So think about what's important to them. By that I don't mean what they need, but what they want. Because we don't do the things we do, we don't get the things we need, we get the things we want. Otherwise, we'd all be on healthy diets. And we'd be signed up to gym memberships, and actually using them, put yourself in their shoes and say, Okay, where are they coming from? Where are they likely to be when they receive this? What do I know about them? 

Rob Ashton  31:52

What clues do I have about what's important to them what they know to be important to them, and then do everything you can to dissociate yourself from what you've written. So if you write the first draft, don't send it, put some time delay, shut down your laptop, put your phone away, walk away, if you can try to come back to it tomorrow, and everything will be screaming, send it it's done, it's fine. Because at that point, you've got that voice in your head, you've got all that information, you know, it will make perfect sense to you. So you need to allow that feeling, and those thoughts to dissipate. So and they will. 

Rob Ashton  32:34

You know, if you walk away and go for a walk or just allow an hour or two, you'll notice a difference. You'll notice that you're thinking differently when you come back to it. So think of the reader. And then try to get yourself out of the picture and get allow your thoughts and your knowledge and your expectation, this prediction that what you've written makes sense, allow all of that to wash through and dissipate before you go back to it and look and see what it's really saying. 

Rob Ashton  33:07

And try to anticipate how the decision maker is going to react, you can even send it to yourself, I would say if you're sending an email to them, the last thing you put in that in the email is the recipient email address. So you can't send it accidentally, you can. But what I do, and what I try to do is, if there's an attachment, I attach that first, but I always forget that but then I write the message, then I allow myself time. And then we come back and we're sending one last night and I then at that point, sent it to myself, so that I could then see what it was like send it from my laptop written looked at it on my phone somewhere else away from my desk, which also helps just anything you can do to anticipate how it will be received. And only when you've got that bit right do you put their name in the recipient box and your email program and send it right. 

Jane Singer  34:02

I think that's such great advice. Rob, you've shared so many interesting things with us here. How can people connect with you? Where can we find you? 

Rob Ashton  34:10

I'm at Rob ashton.com. Okay, so they can find out all about this stuff there. There is, I have a free program actually, which I've put together, which covers all of this stuff and more.

Rob Ashton  34:24

And if they can get out there or they can go straight to it. So just go to Rob ashton.com/influence probation.com/influence. They can they can sign up there. It's a program called Silent influence. For reasons that should be obvious. You notice something we we take for granted, and it's influencing us all the time. 

Jane Singer  34:42

Oh, that sounds fabulous. So I'm going to put all these links in the show notes so that people can have an easier time to connect with you. And I want to thank you so much for being on a seat at the table and for sharing so much valuable information with us. 

Rob Ashton  34:56

It's been an absolute pleasure. Thanks so much for inviting me. 

Jane Singer  34:59

I'd also like to thank our sponsor, Asia net consultants, Asian that's a specialist in recruiting top talent in Asian markets. 

Jane Singer  35:06

Since 1988. Asianet has been working in partnership with its global clients to help them make the right strategic hires. 

Jane Singer  35:14

They have a well earned reputation for being able to fill even those difficult to fill positions. Learn about how they can help you find the best talent by heading over to their website. Asianet consultants.com. That's Asianet consultants.com. I'll also leave a link in the show notes. 

Jane Singer  35:30

Thank you for joining me here on A Seat at The Table. If you enjoyed this episode, or learn something from it, I would love to hear about it. 

Jane Singer  35:37

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Jane Singer  35:47

Don't forget to check out our podcast website https://seat.fm.  

Jane Singer  35:55

If there's something you'd like to share ideas, suggestions or comments, please feel free to reach out. I would love to hear from you. 

Jane Singer  36:02

Thank you again for joining me and being part of our international community. I'm Jane singer, and I'll see you in the next podcast Episode.