We’ve all been there.  In fact, we venture to guess as recent as today. Communication Ping Pong usually occurs with voicemails and email. It starts with a comment, an opinion or an observation that becomes misunderstood or misinterpreted by the recipient. The recipient then responds with a comment, an opinion or an observation…and so on.  It is not uncommon for participants to ping-pong 5, 10, or more times before they realize they haven’t got a clue what started the “communication” in the first place.

Urban Dictionary has a nice definition on “Email ping-pong”; the act of email correspondence between two people getting way out of hand or control. The act of email ping-pong usually starts quite innocently!

Ping – Dear ___, “I noticed blah, blah, blah…”
Pong – Dear ___, “As you should be aware…” (How dare you tell me what I should do…)
Ping – Dear ___, “I am perfectly aware…” (Get your head out of your arse…)
Or
Ping – “Dear Boss, you are scheduled tentatively out on Friday.  Are you going to be here?”                             Pong – “Dear Assistant, I am not sure.”
Ping – “Boss, When will you know?” (sigh…)
Pong – “Assistant, Why?” (sigh…)
Ping – “Boss, I have a client who needs to reschedule their appointment to that day.” (eye roll…)
Pong – “Assistant, we need to create a system for scheduling appointments so no one has to interrupt me and ask about it.”  (I have work I need to be doing…)
Ping – ….silence… (Assistant has ignored email in fear of having to have yet another meeting about creating a system that no one will ever use.)

Assistant returns call to $12M prospective client and informs them that the boss is out on Friday and she will have to call them later to reschedule when she has a better idea of his schedule…Boss assumes Assistant has created suggested system until the next time he is interrupted with a question about scheduling and is unaware and $12M potential client just slide out the door…

The same goes for Voice Mail Ping Pong. Seriously, we’ve all been there one too many times. Your boss decides his 45 minute commute to work is the ideal time to hold a one-sided “meeting” with you. You know… that meeting where he or she leaves a voicemail that starts with “just driving into work and thought I would try to catch up with you…” and the message proceeds to be a giant vomit fest of information and emotions. It starts with, “Call Joe Baker to confirm our 8 a.m. for tomorrow,” and 3 minutes later it goes into how we really need to restructure the marketing plan and talk about 2010 planning because our competitors are doing X, Y, Z. (Meanwhile, the radio is playing distorting half the message and the wind is whipping in the sunroof obscuring the other half but you intermittently catch the words “very important” so you are afraid to just hit delete.)  So you frantically hit the #1 button to replay the message 16 times to make sure you captured everything and have it all beautifully crafted for your weekly meeting on Monday. You proudly present that you captured all 20 “quick ideas” and he says, “Oh that?  I talked to so and so and have a better idea…”

All kidding aside, Communication Ping Pong is the biggest emotional, time, and energy sucker with an ROI a little shy of 0.00%.

So how do we stop the game? What’s the solution?  There are two.  One is reactive – what do to when you find yourself in a game of Communication Ping Pong.  The second is proactive to avoid most instances of it happening in the first place.

1. PICK UP THE PHONE!
Stop the ping pong and pick up the phone!  If you find yourself receiving or sending more than 2 communications on a relatively simple matter (i.e. a yes or no question) stop emailing or texting and pick up the phone and call the other person.  You can resolve the matter in 60 seconds and save a lot of aggravation on both ends.  If you have daily or weekly huddles for these quick Q&A’s, try to hold the question and handle then to avoid interruptions. 

The same goes if you receive a pong and the other party seems upset, annoyed or put off by your communication.  It’s SO EASY to miscommunicate tone by email.  Pick up the phone, call the person and clarify what you are trying to say.  Stop hiding behind email and voice mails to communicate for you.  You will never be better off for it.

2. The Daily Dish™
This is the headlines of the day presented with a positive tone; just the facts without all the emotion (i.e. drama). Leave out the entire “story” you have wrapped around the day. The goal of The Daily Dish™ is to avoid the 2 A.M. Panic Attacks you and your boss have when they can’t remember if you completed a very important task or you can’t remember if you relayed important information to your boss.

The boss wakes up panicking “How much revenue did we bring in today? Did my assistant confirm that big client had the proper driving directions?  Did anyone print the revised handout for my workshop in the morning?”

The employee wakes up panicking “Did I change the boss’ flight or did I hang up after being on hold for 45 minutes? Did I tell my boss his breakfast meeting was rescheduled or is he going to show up at the Pancake House at 7:00a.m.?”

A Daily Dish email, text or note from the team to the boss looks like this:
1. Confirmed big client meeting tomorrow and emailed directions
2. Received your revised handout for big workshop tomorrow and printed it – it’s in the box with everything else
3. Collected 2 checks today totaling $5,500
4. Received referral from the Financial Advisor you had lunch with last week
5. Scheduled two prospective client meetings for you next week

This is not only a safety net for you and your boss but an amazing confidence booster when you end your day on such a positive note of accomplishment. Not to mention the “Ultimate Ingredient” to ELIMINATING Communication Ping Pong; no more emails saying “did you call Joe?”; no more 30 minute wandering voicemails.

The Daily Dish™ Groundrules
• Should fit on STICKY NOTE.  If it doesn’t, your making it a project.
• Open an email at the start of the day and jot what you’ve done down or literally write it on a sticky note throughout the day and send a short email before you leave containing what you need to tell your entrepreneur so they are not waking up @ 2 a.m. AND they are not leaving you messages at 6 a.m. while driving to the gym.
• Eliminate ALL of the back & forth, desired justifications, feelings of being unappreciated, micro-managed and not trusted.  Create the total opposite atmosphere of being EMPOWERED.

• This is not a REPORT– just a running email or note you craft during the day that will report the headlines.  The boss doesn’t need to know that you covered the front desk for an hour while Lisa was at lunch, spent 30 minutes fixing the copy machine and got stuck up front with a walk in client.  They DO need to know the major areas you made PROGRESS on and if you handled the “most important” things they handed off to you.  Again, it’s not that they don’t trust you to get the job done; they just have no closure to know if it was completed unless you tell them!  And here’s the secret…sometimes they don’t even remember if they asked you to do something or if they just thought they did!
• It’s not a report of EVERYTHING you did— just a “check–in” – your Top “Gottas” that you knocked out of the park.

We live in “The Information Age”, also known as the Computer Age; the need and ability of individuals to transfer information freely and to have instant access to knowledge.  Between 1997 and 2001, the number of Americans using computers increased from 137 million to 174 million, 27%, while the online population rose by 152%. Three-quarters of Americans over the age of TWO (serious) had accessed the Internet.  Instant (text) messaging has spread.  82% of Americans own cell phones.

The sign of the times and “instant access” to information still does not excuse our duty to be responsible for the way we make drive by suggestions with no clear REQUEST and make REQUESTS with no clear DIRECTION.  Bottomline – COMMUNICATE IN AN EMPOWERING way and stop hiding out behind Communication Ping Pong.

To learn about how The Daily Dish™ can reduce your stress and increase the confidence others have in you and your confidence in yourself register for our November 19th, 4-5pm EST Webinar “The Attorney & Staff Mindset to Create an Extraordinary Practice”.  Limited space – click here to register now.