Before You Speak, Consider These Critical Communication Steps

Language is one of our most powerful tools, and it impacts every aspect of our lives. How we say it, when we say it, and where we say it can make or break a company’s perception, your reputation, or anyone’s ability to have healthy relationships with others. Without thoughtful and careful consideration of words, you could encounter misinterpretation, confusion, or total disregard. So, before you rush to get your message, views, or talking points out to employees, media, customers, family members, or friends, take these important, but often overlooked, communication steps.

Start with Empathy

It is human to look at everything from our own perspective. Taking the time to see something from another person’s perspective can add unexpected roadblocks to your message, but it is necessary. How will my employees perceive this announcement? What is the view of our customers about this new product? How will my partner feel about this? Putting yourself in the other person’s shoes can open up new perspectives and dramatically change how you present an idea or concept. Being sensitive to timing, world events, and different viewpoints will make your message more thoughtful and strategic because you took the time to see it from the receiver’s point of view. No matter how important your message is, if it is not received well, it is useless, or worse: It could work against you. Starting with empathy will help better frame what you want to say and when you should say it.

Actively Listen

Listening to others is grossly underutilized as a communication tactic, but if you actively listen before rushing out with thoughts and opinions there is a high likelihood your message will be accepted. Most people just want to be heard first. Allowing that to happen and being engaged in the process will set you up for success. We have certainly not done ourselves any favors by encouraging everyone to “mute themselves” upon arrival to a videoconference. This new socially accepted habit that has emerged from the pandemic is dangerously encouraging one-way communication. Of course, it is done for the sake of efficiency, but not spending 10 minutes to get the feel of the room by listening to your audience could sabotage the first words out of your mouth. When we are in physical rooms together, listening to others happens a little more naturally because you cannot go around muting people. It is those conversations right before your speech, announcement, or presentation that could shift how you articulate what you want to say, because you can sense people’s mood or mindset. So how do we get people talking when we have done such a good job of training them to stay muted? Show openness with your body language, invite others to speak first, and most importantly ask questions. Then actively listen and do not think about what you are going to say next, but rather ask a follow-up question, go deeper, and make sure the person feels heard. What you hear may even change what you say next.

Drop the Adjectives and Remove the “I”

Are you really the best, most important person or company in the world? Check your adjectives and then drop them; just the facts please. This is a journalism rule, but can also be very helpful in anyone’s communication. Do we really need all the label descriptors anyway? It could be clouding your message. Once you drop the unnecessary adjectives, comb back through your message and remove every “I” you can. Our natural default is to make everything about ourselves, but if your message is for someone else, removing the “I” can help you get more buy-in.

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