It’s human nature to seek out others to communicate. Through communications we learn, relate, help, influence, and play. Communication is the currency and propellant of our society.
Thanks to technology we are connected and able to communicate more today than at any previous time in our recorded history. We have become ‘digital citizens’ and many of us ‘digital consumers’.
Add to this that pretty soon just about any device will be able to interact and communicate with any other device (the infamous Internet of Things concept), what could possibly go wrong?
Plenty it seems.
From home life, to work and everything in between, it seems a “failure to communicate” is cited as the biggest risk and the primary cause when things go wrong. “I didn’t know”, “You didn’t tell me”, “I didn’t realize”, and the infamous “That’s not what you said” are recognizable claims from the victims of poor or missing communications.
The biggest reason offered, for failing to communicate properly, is time. That is, not enough time to prepare a communication plan to ensure it’s effective, and not enough time by the recipient to read and digest properly.
Hopefully, through reminding you of the key concepts and basic principles of communications, I can help you decide if, when, and how much time you will invest to make sure your communications have the desired effect.
Firstly, communication is the act, by one or more persons, of sending and receiving information as messages. Such messages are distorted by noise from other communications happening simultaneously, and can be additionally affected by a filter (representing local bias, capability, or language) at both the sender and receiver ends.
Communication incurs within a situational context, has an effect, and provides the opportunity for feedback. Communication involves choices and those choices will determine the effectiveness.
Individual and organizational culture permeates all forms of communication.
It’s almost impossible to get through any given day without the need to interact with someone, or something.
What’s the longest time you’ve gone or can go without some form of communication? Were you trying to avoid communication, or were others? Have you ever deliberately tried not to interact, only to discover that no response is in itself a response!
Once a message is received it cannot be taken back. Say something, click “send” on your email, or perhaps flash your headlights at the driver taking your braking distance – it’s done. There’s no easy way to ‘un-communicate’ a message received.
You can of course try to reduce its effect. “I didn’t really mean what I said”. “That’s not what I meant”. “You misunderstood what I said”. Communication is reparable – but at an added and unexpected cost of time, effort, and perhaps the relationship.
Sometimes the more clarification you offer, the worse the effect!
The good news is some communication – verbal for example, fades as soon as it’s spoken. It’s the digital communications that are persistent, and typically un-erasable.
The circumstances that existed and set the context for a previous communication are subject to constant change.
Relationship dynamics, frame of mind, and the situational context are always in flux. As a result you can never recapture exactly the same situation; you can’t simply replay the communication and expect the same effect.
It should come as no surprise when I say the more important it is to make sure the communication has the desired effect, the more time you should invest in planning that communication.
A communications plan is the obvious result of planning your communications, and is typically a written document. It can span a single improvement or change, or an entire program or project, and address the messaging of one audience, or multiple audiences. Here’s my checklist for planning communications:
The more important the message, the more value there likely is in investing your time to plan what the message is, who needs to hear that message, and what result you require to guarantee success.
If you have an important idea, change, improvement, or project, consider investing time, no more than perhaps 30 minutes, in drafting a simple communications plan for at least one audience using the checklist as your guide.
When you’re done, ask yourself – do you think about your messaging and approach differently than before? Was the difference important and helpful? Do you think your communication will be more effective?
I hope you found this article and my checklist for communications planning helpful. Lets keep the conversation going! Drop me a line and let me know how you are doing and remember…
Communications are inevitable, irreversible, and unrepeatable.