Performative Language Will Quell the Responsiveness Trap

Performative Language Will Quell the Responsiveness Trap

In this essay, Harvard Business Review editor Sarah Green defines the “Responsiveness Trap” as a black hole of back-and-forth e-mail communication that does more to hamper productivity than augment it. I tend to agree. But it can be fixed easily.

We need to not fault the mechanism, only the way we use it.

I’ve mentioned this before a few months back when a large tech firm in Europe was looking to drastically reduce its use of e-mail. At first, I found the move innovative. Upon further review, doing so does nothing to solve the inherent problem: our inability to effectively communicate work with one another.

It all comes back to Performative speaking:

Performative language is the only way to coordinate actions with others. It produces work, effort, and action. Performative speaking consists of four types of promises:

Declaration: A promise to the future.

Promise: A promise now.

Request: A promise to be satisfied if you do as I have asked.

Assertion: A promise to provide evidence.

Look at the sample e-mail Ms. Green uses in her post and find opportunities to insert Performative language. It’s actually quite easy.
If every e-mail we send has some form of Performative language in it, e-mail would not be half the productivity drain it is today and we would not be falling into Responsiveness Traps.

About the Author / Travis Carson
Travis Carson
Travis Carson is the Founder of Market Force. Having learned the guiding principles behind Market Force at the age of 19, Travis has used the material himself to help run four different companies, before moving into a training and coaching role in 2008 in order to share the material with others. Travis is a former nationally ranked junior tennis player, a seven-time nationally ranked triathlete, a three-time Ironman finisher and the father of four children.