Communication is the bedrock of all relationships, whether professional or personal. Getting it right can be particularly hard in the workplace, where people with wildly different ways of thinking and talking are all heavily invested in the topics under discussion. We risk causing offence or difficulties, and fear of that risk can be just as damaging, leading people to hold back key information.
So what can you do to ensure good communication?
We often hold back from communicating what we mean out of fear. Particularly with bad or awkward news, this can be because we fear facing the emotional consequences, because we don’t want to face the argument or disappointment our words will bring. But putting communication off for this reason only delays the inevitable, and can make the message harder to receive. If bad news has consequences then people are better off knowing it soon, so that they can plan for it.
Holding back can also come because we fear appearing stupid or being ignored. We doubt the value of our own opinions, and so keep them back. But this can be equally damaging. It can stop your best ideas from being acted on. It can lead to venting your frustration in other ways, unconsciously showing your discomfort and so creating bad feelings.
Have the courage of your convictions. You are in the position you are in because your ideas and opinions add to that role, so don’t be afraid to express them.
Recent experience of marketers has shown that sponsored content works better than adverts in drawing customers’ attention. This isn’t just useful for marketing departments – it contains a deeper lesson for all of us.
People prefer to have something to get their teeth into. A short, shallow message, while having advantages in punchiness, risks losing all meaning. Real people don’t like to be communicated to through soundbites, no matter what the politicians think. So make sure that you understand your core message, that it is something that matters to your audience, and that your words get that message across.
This isn’t a recommendation that you run on at extra length, but that, if you’re being brief, you still make sure that you’re meaningful.
Good communication isn’t all about the parts where you’re speaking or writing – it’s about the bits in between as well.
Taking the time to pause and to think, not rushing from one task to another, is valuable in getting anything right. Good communication isn’t about putting out a huge barrage of words, battering your audience into submission. It’s about the right words, in the right place, at the right time.
So take some quiet time to plan your words, to dream about how to make them better, to analyze your past attempts and improve on them.
Include some quiet time in your communications too. Pause after key points so that the message has time to sink in. Space between the stages in a communications plan allows for your audience to reflect on what you’ve said, internalize it, act on it.
Sometimes it feels like we have so much to say that we need to keep up a constant barrage of words, especially when we’re nervous or uncertain of the outcome. But think about how it sounds to you when someone just babbles on – does that make their message any clearer, or does it undermine their intent?
Have courage in the value of your message. Have substance that will give people a reason to care. And have enough quiet for a clear message. Have the heart for truly great communication.