Tag Archives: Communication

The language barrier

If the language creates a barrier, it really doesn’t matter what the message is.

If your audience is agitated or distracted you won’t have their full attention.  They may be focused on you, but not on the message you’re conveying.

If your selection of words aggravates, is inappropriate, overly familiar or too formal, you’ve lost them.  Communication has broken down.

If the language creates a barrier, it really doesn’t matter what the message is.

Listen to yourself.


Difficult conversations

Difficult conversations rarely get easier with time.  Avoiding the situation, postponing the discomfort, hoping that it’ll go away is not a good strategy.

If anything the difficulty is likely to grow over time, fed by paranoia; the chance of a successful resolution undermined by anxiety, the ebb and flow of conversation disrupted by awkwardness.

Difficult conversations are better in the past, as history, experiences.  Take control the timing by initiating the discussion.  Think it through in advance but be prepared for a dialog; listen and respond.

A difficult conversation that still has to happen is a distraction, an energy drain, a potential disaster.  Get it out of the way and move forward.

Out of Office

Being “Out of the Office” isn’t the same as it used to be.

There was a time when it genuinely meant it would be extremely difficult to contact you (Let’s face it, it’s never been impossible!).  Before the advent of telecommunications in the late 19th Century, contacting you would require someone physically tracking you down.

Things have changed since then… mobile phones moved the goalposts, and mobile communication devices mean that you are rarely in a position where you physically can’t be contacted.

Today email will follow you, and everyone knows.  So, what does your “Out of Office” message mean?

If you simply say “I’m out of the office on business and won’t be picking up email”, people will consider that you’re either technologically handicapped or not telling the whole truth.

Fully satisfying the average enquirer now requires a new level of honesty and openness.  I’m “on vacation”… “in meetings”… “too busy”.  Be honest!  The Recipient is likely to find it more acceptable, and much less frustrating.

Of course, it’d be even more helpful if you can provide clear instructions on what should happen next, but at a minimum, leave the Recipient feeling like they have been, and will be fairly treated.

Next time you switch on your “Out of Office” notification, read the message and think about it.  How would you feel if you received it as a response to an urgent and important email?  Does it say everything you’d like it to?

Who’s your audience?

When you’re communicating it’s important to know your audience.  It’s easy when you’re having a one-to-one discussion, but more difficult when your audience is more nebulous.

For example, you’re delivering a speech to a room full of people, sending an email to everyone in your organisation, or writing a Blog,  Under these circumstances, without immediate feedback, it’s almost more important to target your message to a specific audience.

Firstly, make sure the communication has a purpose.  Without a purpose, there’s no point in communicating.  If you stand in front of a room and say nothing, people will naturally and justifiably conclude that you have nothing to say.

If you try to communicate to everybody on anything but the most basic, personal level your message is likely to be confused and lose meaning.

Instead, by targeting a very specific constituency, you can keep the message focused and clear.  It may not resonate with everyone, but at least you will give yourself a fighting chance of being heard by the select few… even if it’s a target audience of one!

What does every one of your emails say?

It’s not something you’ll think about very often, but your email signature will influence the effectiveness of every one of the emails you send.

Does yours say what you want it to?

Both the content and the presentation are important.  Each has a critical impact on how you will be perceived by the recipient, irrespective of the content of the email.

Does yours reflect the image you’re looking to portray?

Brevity is good.  Avoid froth and eliminate noise.  However, make sure the signature achieves its objectives – usually to explain who the email is from and how to make contact with you.

    What do the inclusion of personal social media details say?  Are they appropriate in the context and audience of the email?

Remember, the point of providing contact information is to allow people to contact you.  Personally, I find the exclusion of a main contact number very frustrating.  For me, this says, “I don’t want to speak to you”… is this what you’re trying to say?

Don’t be afraid to tailor the signature to your audience.  Be aware of it.  Think of it as a core element of every email you write, not an inconsequential post-script.

When communication matters most

The times when your message is most important are often the times when it’s most difficult to deliver.  The key points can get lost in the excitement, the details obscured by emotion.

Difficult as it may be, focus on structure.  Brevity will help.  Simplify the message as mush as possible.  What is the most critical point you need to make?  How can you convey the importance of the situation?

It’s all too easy to bombard the audience with information, neglecting to verify that the critical points have been heard and understood, without waiting for a response.

Being too emotional, too loud, or too direct can all be a distraction.  Counter-productive.  Reducing the impact of the message.

If you have time, prepare.  Refine the message and practice the delivery.  Get feedback from someone you trust.

You are likely to only have one opportunity to deliver your message.  Make it count!

A “Good News” Story

If people have to be told that a communication is a “Good News” story , it probably won’t be perceived that way. 

This is not natural language.  Not something we’d say outside the work place.  It introduces uncertainty that may not have existed before.  It erodes trust.  It demeans the recipient.

If, when delivering a difficult message, you feel like you need to tell people it’s a “Good News” story you probably need to think about it in a bit more detail:

  • Explain the context
  • Communicate the facts
  • Provide supporting evidence
  • Be honest
  • Be authentic
  • Allow the recipients to form their own opinion.

If the content of your message is big and important it is likely that the audience will be split; some people will consider it “Good” news, while others may consider it “Bad”.  If you expect a different result you will be disappointed.

Your goal should be to deliver your message clearly, ensure it’s understood, and then engage in a dialogue.  Good news or bad.