Ever since I first heard it I have been pretty attached to what I know want to refer to as the “golden rule of communication” (which by the way is one of the hardest things we have do to as humans). The rule is simple: “Communication is what the listener does”.
Applying this rule to everyday life puts great demands on you. Traditionally, we force others to embrace the way we communicate. If they don’t understand it, too bad. Not our fault.
By embracing the “golden rule”, we instead realize that we should communicate in such a way that maximizes the possibilities for the reader to understand what we are saying.
In direct business and everyday communication, this means that we should be careful to phrase both email (written) and spoken conversation to work for the receiver.
To me, the reason for wanting to do this is simple. It maximizes understanding and reduces the risk of unnecessary misunderstandings. Especially with the written word, it is difficult to get your exact state of mind across. Therefore, it is in your best interest to make sure the reader interprets your writing as you intend to and not as he or she might otherwise read it.
Embracing the “golden rule” does indeed require that we accept a greater responsibility for “failed” communication. In most cases, this is both possible and reasonable. If we all do this, can you imagine how much easier and more efficient communication would be?