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.