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How To Communicate And Be Heard

Our message gets through only when we understand with whom we are communicating and their needs, the urgency of the message, and the desired next steps our message will trigger.
Business colleagues discussing a project
Gary Burchell via Getty Images
Business colleagues discussing a project

The most important lesson I have learned during my 30 years of experience in communications is that our message gets through only when we understand with whom we are communicating and their needs, the urgency of the message, and the desired next steps our message will trigger. It all boils down to communications style and how well we commit to our message.

Your communications style is reflected in written and spoken word. It goes beyond whether you speak loudly or softly or are animated or still when communicating to one or 1,000 people.

Communication style is not so much about the chosen communications tool (making a speech, sending an email, social media, or making a phone call). It's about creating dialogue using what I call the three C's: Clarity, Content and Commitment. I strive to remember these every time I communicate. (It takes work to edit yourself but the effort is worth it as you create a communications style that brings you closer to others.)

  1. Clarity: Making the message or messages clear.
  2. Content: Writing or speaking about things that are important to the recipient.
  3. Commitment: Communicating your feelings about the urgency and relevance to the recipient about your content.

When communicating with others, are you merely passing on information or engaging them in a way that makes your message resonate with them? How do you know if your message is stirring emotions that will cause them to take action and do what you are a suggesting?

Communicating Your Best Self

Each of us has our favourite form of communication that brings out our true personality within our comfort zone. For example, you might enjoy public speaking. (Others agree that speaking before a group generates the same stress level as being up on charges in court or death.) Good public speakers have the ability to converse with many people at one time and make each audience member feel they are alone with the speaker. By remembering the 3 C's you will subconsciously seat yourself beside each audience member and confirm that your content and delivery has the potential to change each audience member's life or business fortunes. You will not only hold their attention but be asked back.

Email has become the first choice of business communicators, often chosen for its quick delivery and option to prioritize response times. The total number of email accounts worldwide is expected to reach more than 4.9 billion accounts by the end of 2017 from nearly 3.9 billion accounts in 2013.

Others enjoy harnessing the speed social media provides to simultaneously engage many people in different conversations. You can make your point without being distracted by your conversational partners' body language and then await their response seconds -- or hours -- later.

Face-to-Face vs. Digital

The same principles of face-to-face communication should apply to communication on digital channels: Know your audience and what motivates them; focus on the information they need to know; use full sentences they can understand as opposed to emoticons and other digital shorthand that may confuse or worse, annoy them; limit the email to one topic of conversation and be clear about what you wish them to do after reading the email e.g. confirm their next steps and when they'll complete them.

Face-to-face communication one-on-one or with a small group has long been acknowledged as the most effective way to communicate. You can effectively deploy your richest personal communications style to read body language and better guide the conversation toward the desired outcome -- for you and your conversational partners.

Meeting Style: Bringing a Group Together

Where team meetings are concerned, a cautionary note about being too focused on meeting goals and efficiency. If you are a team leader, you will demonstrate value by adopting a collaborative personal communications style when working with a team to complete a project.

Using Google, Skype, or any other type of video conferencing software (versus the classic approach of sitting at a long table together drinking coffee late into the night and collaborating face-to-face) is often seen by many as the best way to remain on point and get the work done faster. But as Sherry Turkle notes in "Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age," the closeness of people gathered in a room can bring to life new business or other solutions when the conversation drifts slightly from the meeting's objectives.

A communications style that takes into account unplanned opportunities for free-flowing collaborative thought is just as valuable as one that is 100% outcome focused. (Among the 3 C's, this is part of your ability to deliver content that is relevant to the discussion.) A personal communications style that embraces focus and flexibility is doubly valuable to both the speaker and the audience.

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