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Communicate clearly

While we all appreciate clear communication, how often check with our team members to see if we ARE being clear in our communication? Are you sending long emails without clear action items? (Last week’s post on concise communication may be helpful!) Are you being honest and direct about what you are asking from others? Do you use lots of acronyms – particularly with new team members? Do you give people TOO many options on how to respond?

Here are 3 suggestions on how to be more clear in your communication efforts!

  1. Cut the clutter. This is particularly true if you are sending an email. One of my favorite college professors used to say “cut the clutter” when he would grade my papers. At the time, I hated hearing that (or reading that in red ink!), but he was right! This concept goes along with being concise. If we want to clearly communicate our message or ask for feedback, we need to pause and consider which words are really necessary – and which ones are not!  Here are some suggestions for “cutting the clutter” in your emails.
    • Use the subject line to clearly communicate the purpose of the email (e.g., if you want to schedule a meeting with someone say “Can you meet on Thursday, November 15th?” or if you need feedback say, “Please review the evaluation report by November 1st”).
    • Use bullets when possible.
    • Read the email out loud to see if it is clear.
    • Put your question(s) in bold or italics font.
    • Try not to use too many acronyms (particularly if you have new folks who won’t know them)
    • Eliminate attachments (if possible). I have discovered that a lot of people will not open attachments (especially if they are responding to email on their phones) and if there is a way to be clear with the message without an attachment, do it!
  2. Ask for feedback. The only way you will really know if you are being clear (or not) is if you ask someone you can trust to provide honest feedback. It’s really easy to get so entrenched in the content (especially if we are passionate about it) that we forget that our audience is probably not as familiar or interested in all of the details. If you are finding that people are not responding to your emails, consider being more clear in your communication. Ask your trusted colleagues for feedback.
  3. Consider your method. Your communication method(s) will vary depending upon the type of information you are communicating. If you are trying to get feedback from one of your team members on a complicated situation, email is probably not the best method. In these situations, consider scheduling a video chat or an in-person meeting. A phone call may work; however, if it’s a particularly complex and multifaceted problem or situation, it’s best to be able to see the other person so you can utilize both verbal and non-verbal cues. Other times, email IS the best method for being clear. This is particularly true for simple questions that only require a “yes” or “no” answer. 

Try to think about someone you know (or work with) that does a particularly good job of being clear. Pay attention to them. What do they do (or not do)? What are some things you can do to model after them and be more clear in your communication this week?

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Photo by Mimi Thian on Unsplash

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