When you communicate, who does all the work?

16th January 2024

"I’m sorry I wrote you such a long letter; I didn’t have time to write a short one."

When we communicate, we want the other person to understand it, value it and act on it.

And, for this to happen, someone will have to do most of the work – either:

  • The Sender works hard to simplify and streamline the message; and/or
  • The Receiver works hard to decipher what the Sender meant, sift through everything to find the relevant bits, and decide what action to take

Unfortunately, often the Sender makes the Receiver do all the work:

  • Lengthy emails, where key messages are hidden/missing
  • Detailed meetings with lots of irrelevant content
  • Long documents – ten pages long, when they could’ve been two
  • Tedious presentations – too much info; too much stuff on the slides

But the problem with making the Receiver do all the work is:

  • They might not bother – meaning the communication doesn’t work
  • They might bother, but misunderstand it – meaning wrong things happen
  • They might bother, and understand it, but hate the Sender for making it harder than it needed to be

So what can we do about this?

Well, as the Sender

… we can do the work ourselves – not leave it all to the Receiver.

This is much better for them. After all, you’ve done all the work.

But it’s better for you too. Spending an extra two minutes editing before you send it means they’re more likely to do what you want, immediately. This could save you days of chasing, or being ghosted.

And, as the Receiver

… when we receive communications where we instantly realise that we have to do all the work (because the Sender clearly hasn’t bothered!) – where appropriate, we can challenge it:

  • “Thanks for sending this. To make sure I respond in the right way, please can you confirm exactly what you want me to do with it?”
  • “I’ve received your document. Please can you help me understand the key 2-3 things you want me to focus on?’
  • Etc

We all know communication can be hard work.

But it does NOT have to be as hard as it is.

And we have a responsibility – both as the Sender and the Receiver – to make it as easy as we can.

Which means that this week’s…

Action Point


  • Next time you send something, do the work yourself. Simplify. Streamline. Remove irrelevant stuff. Be clear on the actions you want
  • And the next time you receive something confusing, go back to the Sender, to ask them to do more work – to help you do less work!

Want more Tuesday Tips?

Every week, Andy releases a Tuesday Tip via email and his website, let’s take you back to the archive of tips.

Back to Tuesdays Tips