5 Tricks to Make Your Communication More Effective
Trick #1 – Write Quickly, Edit Thoroughly
I spend a lot longer editing communications than I do writing them in the first place. You’ll get your true inner thoughts down on paper much more easily and effectively if you just start writing. Forget the spelling errors, or grammatical disasters whilst you type or scribble. Just get the key points down. Don’t worry about sentence structure, or the order of what you’re writing.
Once you’ve finished writing and there are no more points left to make; edit.
Read thoroughly and correct any basic spelling or grammar errors. Now, read for flow. Do you have your thoughts in a seamless order? Re-order sentences with poor, ambiguous construct; and re-organise paragraphs to create a stronger story of what you want to say. The last Communications Tips email provided a framework for organising your emails in a structured manner.
Remember that spell checkers don’t pick up on words that have been used incorrectly in a sentence – e.g. ‘know’ vs. ‘no’, so thoroughly proof read your words to ensure the context and intention is portrayed accurately.
Poorly structured written communication risks being interrupted in a multitude of ways in which it was not intended. This wastes time, resource and energy. If you don’t have time to write something, don’t do it now, find time later. Worst case, send a holding reply letting your recipient know that you will provide a more thoughtful response when you have more time available.
Trick #2 – Be Assertive, It’s Ok
Assertiveness can sometimes be confused with being aggressive or domineering when actually it is neither of these things. To be assertive is to clearly state what you desire from your communication, what need you have, or what action you wish others to take. This only becomes ‘aggression’ when your communication does not consider the needs and rights of others. If you are clear about what you want, you will be more likely to get a quick, satisfactory solution that all parties can get on board with. When we ‘dance around’ our real agenda in communication, it not only wastes time, but it leaves blurred lines and room for ambiguity; something we can ill-afford in business.
Being assertive is sometimes about saying ‘no’ to something being asked of you. The key is to say ‘no’ to the task, whilst reassuring the person asking that you are not saying ‘no’ to them on a personal level. Saying ‘no’ is often a task we avoid. It’s harder to say ‘no’ to something someone wants you to do, than to just agree to it. It can build up in our mind as being a ‘difficult conversation’ we need to have. Difficult conversations should not be avoided; treat them like a Band-aid – just rip it off and the pain will be brief, and not remotely as bad as you have imagined. Don’t dwell on it; deal with it assertively!
Trick #3 – Respond, Don’t React
Reacting is something we do when we feel the need to provide an instant answer or solution to another’s question or behaviour. In most cases, it is not necessary to react; only to respond. Sometimes doing nothing is also the most appropriate way to provide a response. Responding is what we do to manage the communication at the time it is received. Responding is being able to provide a calm, simple reply that lets the other person know that you have received their message, and what you will do next. What you do doesn’t have to immediately answer their request.
Your response could be to let them know that you’ve received their request, and will reply to them within a given time period. Reacting is usually an emotional response often triggered by stress, that sees us providing an immediate emotional reaction to the message we’ve just heard, or read. Mastering the art of responding is a key skill in becoming an excellent communicator.
Think about how your business responds to customers. Do you have an auto-reply set up to provide an instant ‘receipt’ of peoples’ messages, or emails? How does your voicemail message respond to enquiries? What about ‘sudden’ requests, do you have a process in place for how you deal with them? The response ‘clock’ is yours to set; just because people demand, does not mean they get it straight away, but continuing communication is an important part of the process.
If you feel as though your workload is out of control, you might be reacting instead of responding. It is not always easy to be a responder, but it does make for a better experience overall.
Trick #4 – Check For Understanding
It’s easy to assume that because we’ve sent a message, whether verbally or in written communication, that our intended meaning has been received and understood. However, how many times have you seen people’s tweets or comments become the subject of mass hysteria simply because their message was not received in the way they had intended? These nuances of communication are becoming ever more important to understand and master in our own communication.
Always take time to check that people have understood your message. You can do this verbally by asking reflecting questions such as; ‘does that make sense to you?’ followed by ‘how do you see this moving forward?’; or ‘was there any part of what I said that you weren’t sure about?’.
In presentations, never underestimate the importance and value of including a slide at the end to invite questions, and remember to build time into your agenda to ensure people have a genuine opportunity to both ask and receive a reply to their questions. Check understanding and engagement during your presentation also, by inviting feedback; e.g. ‘does that make sense?’, ‘do you understand?’.
Trick #5 – One Size Does Not Fit All
Whilst it can be time consuming to produce individual and tailored communication, a quick cut and paste from one person to another, or a blanket script ignores the nuances of people’s individual circumstances and risks leaving the recipient feeling like a number, not a name. There’s nothing worse than receiving an email or proposal, only to discover a reference to someone else’s business, or industry, or a previous time period. If you send something like this to a prospective client, it could mean your proposal is refused as a result.
It can also risk misinterpretation of your message, as people will receive the message from their personal perspective with their own knowledge, understanding and context of the world overlaid to it.
Try to tailor to individual circumstances as much as possible, and build in difference scenarios to your comms. that cater to the different ways in which people may be coming to your communication. For example, put yourself in the various shoes of those who will receive your communications, then read the intended comms. out loud as if you were coming at it from that person’s perspective. Do this for all the different groups you might be communicating with to check that you’ve covered all eventualities. This enables you to provide clear context, and predict and manage potential responses or questions before they occur.