I started reading a book about writing last week called Wired for Story by Lisa Cron. It’s about the way your brain responds to storytelling and how you tailor the way you write to engage the brain. I tried to tell my friend about the book, but my explanation didn’t entice her wish to read. In fact, the moment I said the word “science” she seemed disinterested. Later she told me that she liked to keep her creative side and her science side separate, and I realized that wasn’t what I had meant at all.
Isn’t it funny how miscommunication works? While I was just trying to talk to my friend about a book, I failed to communicate the information in a way that would pique her interest. Instead, I assumed that she would understand what my underlying message was, and not focus on the mention book was applying scientific theories to creativity.
Even with a friend, these miscues can occur when we make assumptions or infer meanings that aren’t correct or there to begin with. Here are three ways to keep the miscommunication to a minimum.
Take the time to think about what you’re about to say before it just pops out of your mouth. My mother used to tell me that my biggest problem as a child was that I had no filter. It was cute when I was five and telling our landlord that he was not my father and couldn’t tell me what to do, but as an adult, that’s not really appropriate.
Consider your relationship to the person you are speaking with. It’s probably a bad idea to talk to your boss the same way you might speak to your friend after a couple of vodka tonics. Understanding relationships and how to appropriately respond based on any lines that you might cross is a must for adequately judging what you can say and how you can say it.
When writing your communications let someone else read it before you send it. Sending a response via email takes away your ability to be heard, so people can (and will) draw their own conclusions on what you mean. It’s important to set the tone in an email and you should never respond when you’re angry or frustrated. Kenneth Roman & Joel Raphaelson’s book, Writing that Works, features a chapter on how to craft a great email and breaks down the importance of tone.
Bonus Tip: When you’ve replied to an email twice and the issue is still unresolved, it’s time to pick up the phone. Our rule here is to not hit reply a third time; instead, make a phone call.
Bonus Tip #2: When you find yourself starting a sentence with “Don’t take this the wrong way…” you should stop talking.
What’s the best way to make your message clear to everyone?