By Monique Russell
“I shouldn’t have said that”.
“I should have said this instead.”
“Maybe that email was too strong.”
“Maybe that email wasn’t strong enough.”
“Was it clear?”
How many times have you made one of these statements, or replayed a conversation you had over and over in your head? Maybe that email took you close to 30 minutes to write but after hitting send, you scramble to get the recall message hoping that you can take it back, or replace it before it’s seen.
Is that you? If it is, you’re not alone.
Are you communicating to win?
And by win, I mean achieve effective results.
Do you stop to think about what goal you want to achieve before you have a conversation, or draft an email?
After all, we plan and prepare for presentations, speeches, and other notable events, so why don’t our everyday conversations, especially those with high stakes, not require or generate the same amount of care?
Let me share three quick and easy steps that will save you time by getting to the core of what you want to say, and how you need to say it.
Identify your communication goals.
Ask: What do they need to know? What do they not need to know?
They need to know that I’m proud of the effort they took to finish this project before the deadline.
They need to know that I won’t take no for an answer and I’ll show up every day, asking same question a different way.
They need to know that I’m on the way out, and nothing they say can make me stay.
They need to know I want them to succeed and I that I believe in them.
Identify your communication outcome
Ask: What end result do I want from this communication?
I want them to plan the next project better to avoid the late nights and cutting into personal time.
I want them to schedule a firm appointment to avoid being pestered every day.
I want them to acknowledge that I’ve made a firm decision.
I want them to walk away knowing that I genuinely care.
Sometimes your communication outcome doesn’t require any action on the part of the recipient. That is okay. The key is to identify the outcome or result you do want based on the identified communication needs in step one.
Identify your positioning
Ask: What words or phrases will I use to communicate the outcomes in step 2?
What tone should I use? When should I best approach this topic?
“It’s not what you say, but how you say it.” (unknown)
Arm yourself with a few key phrases when you don’t know what to say. Sarita Maybin provides some good leading examples in her book If You Can’t Something Nice, What DO You Say?
Some examples are:
Help me understand…
You may not realize that…
Would you be willing to?…
I noticed… ,and I’m wondering…
I’m concerned that…
Use dictionary.com’s thesaurus tool to help identify similar words and different ways to say something.
Avoid using the word “but” after making a positive statement. Regardless of what you’ve said before the use of the word, the recipient will often tend to gravitate to what comes after the word “but” in a sentence.
I think you are a great father, but you need to spend more time with the kids.
You did a good job with the presentation, but it could have been shorter.
I do like your new hairstyle, but I liked it the way it was before.
Instead, end the positive statement and let it stand on its own, or replace the word ‘but,’ with ‘and.’
For example, I do like your new hairstyle,and I also liked it the way it was before.
See the difference?
With your communication needs and outcomes identified, thinking for a few minutes about the best way to get that point across is probably the most challenging, and helpful step. There is no one size fits all approach to communication, and no matter how much you plan, there simply aren’t any guarantees on the outcomes of a communication event. With planning steps in place, though, your chances of improved performance and achieving effective results increases.
What are some helpful phrases or tips you’ve used in your communications with others? Please share them in the comments below.
If you’d like to improve your inter and intra personal communications skills, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to be your Executive Coach.