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‘ASAP’ just made your communication bridge collapse

Why using the acronym ASAP can put people offside and cause a communication breakdown

Communication is a bridge. Employer to employee, colleague to colleague, client to company, communication bridges the gap between two parties. And, there’s one easy way to make that bridge collapse. Four innocent little letters could be responsible for the collapse of effective communication – ASAP. This acronym, As Soon As Possible, has the potential to break trust and degrade open communication lines.

Here are four reasons you should never use ASAP:

  1. It’s vague

    ASAP doesn’t set clear expectations. If you’re honest with yourself, you know that. In fact, it’s probably why you use it. If an email comes in and you don’t have time to look at it, but you know the other person needs a response – you might reply, “Thanks, will address this ASAP.”

    In this case, ASAP means, “When I have time, which might be today or it might be next month.” Effective communication relies on clearly established timelines and expectations. If you don’t know when you’ll have time to do something, work out an ‘at the latest’ date and say that instead. For example, “Thanks. Hoping to look at this by Tuesday, at the latest.” This means the person you’re communicating with knows what to expect and your productivity is boosted because you have a deadline to stick to.

  2. It breaks trust

    If you say ASAP and then ASAP turns out to be three months down the line, your client or colleague is going to feel rightly peeved. You don’t want to gain a reputation for someone who doesn’t stick to their word and ASAP is a notoriously hard word to stick to.

    To preserve trust in your communication, choose a more specific deadline and set expectations that you can follow through on. Otherwise, ASAP is going to make your communication bridge collapse.

  3. It doesn’t value the other person

    ASAP is lazy. Instead, show some effort and use your words in a way that values the other person’s time. ASAP makes you appear as if you can’t be bothered to prioritise a request. That’s why it makes bridges collapse. ASAP is a conversation ender. Instead, choose to be specific and clear. Then, meet those expectations that you’ve set.

    Similarly, if you’re asking someone else to respond to your request ASAP then you can appear pushy, verging on rude. If you receive an email that requests you to complete something ASAP it’s almost impossible to time-manage properly because you don’t know when they really need it by.

A good rule to go by is this: don’t put anything in an email that you wouldn’t say in person. If you couldn’t imagine saying to a colleague’s or client’s face ASAP, then don’t type it. It’s impersonal and ineffective. Set better expectations, value people’s time and be clear. That’s the way to build a strong bridge of communication.

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