Communication has so many obstacles. Think about it. Even simple communication takes so many steps. You have to develop the message in your mind then define how you are going to communicate it (written, verbal, etc.) then deliver the message. The person receiving it has to hear, see or read it (or even feel it if it has physical characteristics). After that they have to interpret it, process it, understand it and then begin defining their reaction. So even a simple message or question like “What’s for dinner?” has to pass through three steps of delivery and four steps of reception before the other party even starting thinking of a response.
Now think about how easy it is to have someone state something incorrectly or to vaguely for others to grasp, or for the other party to misinterpreted the statement.
Let’s take the delivery side first. Is it a hop, skip or jump?
When things need rapid communication, you just blurt them out, like yelling “Fire” or “Look out”. Delaying the communication could cause or allow more damage than overstating the concern. Just get it out there. But other messages need more refinement. Let’s take a look at what problems I have seen in defining and delivering the message.
Defining the Message
Don’t start talking until you have most of it figured out: Try to think through the entire communication prior to starting. Do you have all the info needed? Do you know what questions might be asked from what you are stating? Not having it all wrapped up is okay if you state that up front. Bringing someone in to assist with defining the initiative is okay as long as they know you are not finished with the entire process.
Not enough detail: I have gotten so many messages from others that have been calls to action (asking me to do something) in which there is not enough detail to make it happen. It makes me think they have not fully thought out the idea or initiative. They leave out critical who, what, when, where and expect me to define the How. When asking someone for someone’s help – you need to include the reason for needing it and then provide them with the exact information you need and when you need it.
Too much detail: The flip side of not enough is too much. Some emails I get (and some that I write) have way too much info and people just don’t read them all the way through. When I find myself typing too much in an email I usually try to add a summary of critical items or highlight in bold some data the needs to be transferred. In conversation, look for body language that you are talking too long. Keep messages short and to the point.