Good communication: it’s just common sense

When I worked in Internal Communications, a frequent request from stakeholders was to create comms ‘toolkits’ for teams to use independently – to help them to write or present in a way that would get their message across.

Usually, this involved providing a PowerPoint presentation with a pack of reference notes and templates. 

This can be helpful, but even more useful to keep in mind on a day to day basis is this: use your common sense!  

Even in the most corporate of organisations, communications don’t have to be complicated – in fact, they probably shouldn’t be. And when it comes to making decisions about what to say and how to say it, the best outcomes are usually the result of a straightforward approach.

Know your audience

Think about it like a conversation. Once you know who you’re talking to, you’ll have some idea of how much (or how little) they’ll understand about the subject you want to share.

It’s unlikely that you’d start a conversation with a stranger in a pub and expect them to immediately understand the intricacies of your job or your favourite tv programme. The same goes for communications in the workplace: take the time to know your audience so that you can pitch your message at just the right level.  

Have a clear message

Then you can focus on what you want them to know and perhaps most important of all what you want them to do with that information. (If you’re struggling to work out what your message is, it may be a sign that now is not the best time to communicate at all!)

Keep it brief

Meandering conversations are all well and good when you have plenty of time to spare, but in the workplace, this isn’t usually the case. So, stick to your point and don’t muddle your message by including unnecessary details. 

Think about where and how people will be accessing your carefully crafted masterpiece. If you have a workforce that is mainly on the road, they need to be able to read anything you send them easily from a mobile device while on the move, so keeping the message as brief as possible is likely to help your read rate. 

Even if you’re presenting in person, a concise message is far more likely to win over your audience than an hour-long presentation.  

Forget the jargon

Peppering your text with jargon is unlikely to help either. It might feel good to use technical terms and abbreviations, but if you want to avoid misunderstandings and a slew of questions needing answers the following day, keeping the language simple makes sense.  

Trust your gut

A successful communication is one where people understand what you are saying, heed your call to action, and everyone involved feels that they have got something from the encounter. 

So when you read through your text or practice your speech, think about how you would feel if you were on the receiving end of that message. If you’re worried something may be too harsh or could lead to misunderstandings – chances are, it probably will be.

Your gut feeling is usually spot on, so don’t ignore any niggling concerns about tone or even timing. Being aware of potential sensitivities, and then adjusting your message to take that into account can prevent a considerable amount of grief in the long run.  

None of this is rocket science, but it does require some thinking about what you want to say and who you want to listen. It might seem obvious, but showing some empathy can make all the difference when it comes to your audience taking note. And by considering their needs, expectations and the broader context of your message – you’ll be far more likely to see the results you want to achieve.

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