Clear Communication is Hard, But It’s Easier Than It Seems

In management and human resources, there’s nothing more important than communication. An organization that communicates well positions itself to grow, while one that struggles to share information easily, effectively, and efficiently crumbles slowly.

We audit our books, analyze our processes, and run through safety protocols regularly. Why don’t we do the same with our communication? Getting started is as simple as putting some attention toward self-awareness, thinking about the different types of speech we use in the workplace, and going back to the basics on persuasion.

At its simplest, communication is transmitting information. The end result might be getting a sale or providing an employee with all the knowledge they need to get a project done. Regardless of the outcome, it all depends on whether that information goes from one mind to the other without much interference.

And, as Mortimer Adler pointed out in “How to Speak, How to Listen,” speaking information is much more difficult than writing. Speaking happens in real-time; you can’t walk it back and you can’t adjust the flow. You’ve got to nail it.

This is relevant for executives and managers who need to communicate instructions perfectly -- and with all the changes to health care, benefits, and conduct policies in the workplace, HR managers especially can’t afford any lack of clarity.

The stakes are high, but a few tips will both ease your mind and help you polish your direct speech for a more effective result.

Realize Your Audience Actually Wants or Needs You

Speaking to a disinterested audience isn’t the same thing as talking to someone who actually cares (whether they want to or they need to). Aside from cold calls, most of the time you’re communicating with someone who has an interest in what you’re saying. Customers pop into the shop because they’re looking for something; they want to be interested. Employees want to do a great job, or at least keep their job; they need to be interested.

Communicating gets a lot easier the moment you realize that almost all the time, whomever you’re speaking to actually wants to hear what you have to say.

We All Use Authority, Feelings, and Logic

It’s easy to get wrapped up in processing our audience through one single lens. Talking to professionals like lawyers or accountants can be stressful because it seems they’re all logic all the time. We can overvalue customers’ feelings and impulses and worry about whether we can resonate. We stress about big client meetings because of the power and authority those clients might have.

It’s really not necessary. You’re a combination of your authority, your feelings, and your logical thoughts. So is everyone else, and you can definitely find a way to communicate information that fits.

Planning for the Unplanned Goes a Long Way

When we have a sales call or an employee meeting, we can plan as much as we want. We can organize our thoughts and the information we want to convey and then decide exactly how we’ll do it.

But most of the times we need to instruct or provide information are impromptu. We’re fielding a question from an employee or customer, or we’re drawn into a situation to provide our insight. Without that chance to plan, our communication can suffer (and it can be nerve-wracking).

It doesn’t have to, though. We can actually plan for the unplanned.

Those complex HR questions? You can probably anticipate most of them and be prepared to address them. Sales objections? Well, any sales training you’ve done likely covers that. And the myriad subplots and tangents that happen when you’re running a meeting or introducing your employees to a new project already occurred to you as you organized your talk.

Spending time on prepping for the unplanned takes a lot of the stress out of communicating. You won’t get them all, but you’ll get most, and being ready for those makes the remaining surprises easier to deal with.

Clear, concise communication is something you have to work at -- and not only will making an effort to do it better ease your own mind, but everyone from your employees to your customers will appreciate it.

Rodney Steele