In our eye-opening episode, ‘The Science of Writing for Busy People’ (Episode 70), we linked up with Harvard professor, behavioral scientist, and lead researcher for Everyday Labs, Dr. Todd Rogers. He gives us valuable insights on optimizing communication between schools and families.
Here are the key ideas we took away from this episode:
- “I would have written you a shorter letter if I had time.” - Mark Twain. Readers often skip over long paragraphs. It takes extra time to craft a precise message, but it’s necessary to ensure readers never miss crucial details.
- How you send your message determines how readers treat it. Emails are better when a school desires immediate action from parents. Highlighting and bolding essential details, as well as using categorization and headings, appeals to skim readers. Include links for those that want additional information.
- Regular mail becomes an artifact in the home (i.e., placed on the fridge), thus receiving more attention. It’s more easily accessible to homeless families than digital messages. Use it when a message doesn’t require fast action.
- EveryDay Labs conducted an experiment in which school children were given $5 with conditions. If they kept it, the school would notify their parents of their next exam grade. 25% of the children returned the $5 to avoid having their grades reported. This experiment demonstrates the friction or obstacles that messages face when traveling from schools to parents.
- Avoid sending blaming messages that turn parents off. If a child has issues at school, reach out by asking, “How can we help?” This approach keeps the communication positive and focuses on problem-solving.
Rogers’ communication tips extend to dialogue between anyone. He encourages us to be succinct, relevant, and respectful in communication. Flowery words and adjectives can help soften a message; however, in a fast-paced, busy world, the most courteous communication is brief and clear.