The Best Ways to Deliver Clear and Concise Communication
The top ways to become more clear and concise.
Posted Oct 21, 2020
If there is one area in which most human beings seem to struggle, whether in personal or business environments, it is communication. You are certain you were clear and definitive, but your significant other had a different interpretation. Your boss claims he or she offered timelines and outcomes, but you aren’t sure exactly what you are supposed to do. There are so many occasions in everyday interactions where one party is sure they were specific and direct and the other party is left wondering what the communication is all about.
The old adage that human beings have one mouth and two ears would seem to imply that people are better at listening than at talking, but most know this isn’t really true. Listening is a lost art in a distracted world, and every interaction leaves you ripe for misunderstanding.
The next time a communication matters to you – and really if you are in relationship with someone and communicating regularly, they should all matter to you – consider these five steps to communicate most effectively in any situation.
- Start by establishing the hoped-for outcome of the interaction. What do you want to have happen once the person or people have listened to you? Are you hoping for agreement on something, a decision to be made, information to be passed and understood, a sale, a next step or simply an ear? Many times you will find yourself frustrated because you needed something specific, but the other person responded with a different approach or answer. Instead of hoping someone will read your mind, tell them what you need.
- Consider your audience and their needs or filters. If you know someone is going to be resistant to something, or you know their view is different, or they are having a bad day or struggling with something in their life, shape your comments and communication to acknowledge this. For example, if your company is experiencing layoffs and your boss is stressed because of budgets and financial concerns, but you want to ask for a raise, you approach your boss calmly, acknowledging the position your request might put her in. The more you can frame comments with consideration for the position of another, the better they will listen to you.
- Organize your thoughts and chunk your information to be delivered. Many times a listener is left wondering where thoughts and comments might be headed. They try to follow a line of thinking but the communication is random and disorganized. This leaves your listener spending too much time trying to interpret or follow your comments. Make it easier on them by preparing in advance and shaping your comments in terms of A, B, C – for example, with your boss: “I am hoping to discuss why I believe I am deserving of an increase, and I do understand many of the considerations with the financial concerns of the business right now. To walk through this I will share (1) my accomplishments over the last 3 years in my role, (2) why the increase I am asking for is in alignment with other roles, and (3) how a potential increase could be phased in given the current climate within the company.” This way you are letting the audience know not only the outcome but also how you will accomplish what you are going to discuss. The better organized your delivery, the better opportunity for your listener to follow along.
- Provide context and make the material matter to your audience. If you are trying to get the attention of adult learners, you need to connect new information to something they care about. Adult learners are on overload most of the time, and if you want your comments to stand out in their crowded brains, create a scenario or example or story that will help them to understand. This doesn’t always fit – but when it does, it can be a powerful way to connect your audience to your message. Be careful not to do this baldly, like “I would like a raise because John is making more money than I am at the company and I believe I deserve to make as much.” It can’t be focused on you; it has to be focused on your audience. Rather, “I know it might be hard to consider giving me a raise when we are experiencing financial concerns but you might recall three years ago when you had given Sarah the increase she deserved, she was recognized as a strong contributor to the company and at that time, you were also recognized as someone who rewards their team members. It might be possible to create a situation where that happens again here.” The story or example has to fit the scenario (and it has to be real) but consider whether something could fit. The more you make it about the audience, rather than just about you, the more they will sit up and take notice!
- Make sure that once you finish your communication, you connect the dots for your listener. If you started out with an expected end in mind, confirm that you have reached that outcome. If you wanted to gain agreement from your significant other to purchase those new curtains for the den, then confirm whether you have outlined a strong enough argument to be able to do so! If you set the expectation, you can end by asking for the answer. If you haven’t started with the end, you might find yourself struggling to bring your communication to a close. Sometimes you can talk too much, ramble in different directions and not be clear about what you want. Be clear on important communications and summarize the end by gaining agreement that you have reached the outcome.