As a leader, Stephanie was meticulous in her attention to detail. She made sure everything was on track and kept us informed throughout her projects. At times, though, I could see her frustration set in. In her meetings, most of the team was not prepared. We usually didn’t read Stephanie’s emails. Though well organized, they were often filled with too much information.
You’ve been on the receiving end of annoying communications like this — the mile-long email that crams in every possible detail, the cryptic tweet-like text that leaves you guessing, or the meeting that didn’t seem to accomplish anything. This happens all too often.
In my work with companies of all sizes and professionals at all levels, I often see these common communication mistakes. They most often occur when one of following reasons is present:
• Strapped for time: When you’re in a hurry, you don’t take the time to think about and plan your communication, so it comes out looking and sounding just that way.
• Social style preferred: It’s comfortable to hide behind the social networking style of communicating. Rather than picking up the phone, stopping by someone’s desk, or calling a quick meeting, you try to include all the information in a written message.
• Lack of awareness: You’re not aware of the impact of your communication or how it comes across to the receiver. You don’t ask for or are not attentive to their feedback.
• Lack of differentiation: You treat every message and every person the same. You get comfortable with a communication method and tend to use that all the time. You fail to realize that there are various ways that people absorb information and prefer to communicate.
Because communication affects your working relationships and career potential, you’ve got to be intentional about avoiding these mistakes. These five steps will help you master the art of communicating by keeping it CRISP, which also serves as an acronym:
1. Clarity Of Purpose — Why Communicate?
The first questions to ask yourself are: Is there a real need to communicate? What do I need to communicate and why? What do I want to happen based on this communication? Get clear on your purpose for communicating. Write down the purpose so that you can refer to it as you determine your approach and craft your messaging.
2. Right To The Point — Be Clear And Succinct
What is the core message? In order to effectively craft your core message, determine the outcomes you’re looking to accomplish. By carefully thinking through what you want your audience to know, feel, and do, you’ll more clearly and succinctly get to the point. Ask yourself the following:
• What do you most need the audience to know? What are the most important points? Weed out the “nice to know,” but not critical points.
• How do you most need the audience to feel during and following the communication? What information needs to be shared in order to create the desired emotion?
• What do you most need the audience to do? What actions do you want the audience to take as a result of this communication? Clearly outline those actions.
Once you’ve determined your “Know, Feel, Do” points, craft the key points of your message. Then, add the pertinent information, clearly aligning with your purpose and desired outcomes. Focus on the most important points that the audience needs to know. Remember: Be brief. Be bright. Be gone.
3. Intentionally Select Your Communication Mode And Style
Once you know your purpose and “Know, Feel, Do” outcomes, determine which communication mode would work best to accomplish your goals, i.e., one-on-one discussion, meeting, phone call, video, chat, email, letter, text, memo, etc. Whether written or communicating in person, choose your words carefully, ensuring they communicate your intended message and match the emotion you are trying to convey.
Evaluate the level of formality required as you select a style. Use emojis with caution, being attentive to the influence they have on your message.
This checklist can help you select the optimal communication mode and style:
• Purpose of the message
• Audience composition and proximity
• Level of knowledge or support related to the topic
• Number of people involved
• Sensitivity of the topic
• Time sensitivity or urgency
• Length of message
• The formality of the situation and/or culture
• Anticipated and desired response
In many cases, you will engage in discussion or invite feedback. Select a mode that best accommodates the conversation.
4. Situation Assessment — Observe And Adjust
You’ll assess the situation throughout each of these planning steps. Your assessment will help you determine whether you need to communicate, what you need to communicate, and how you should communicate. Consider what already has been shared and what has occurred prior to this point. Observe and actively listen to others to get a feel for their level of knowledge, understanding, support, or even interest in your topic. You also want to be attentive to the emotions or sensitivities that are present.
5. Preview And Polish — Take Time To Edit
Before clicking ‘send’ or initiating a discussion, take the time to review your communication message and strategy to ensure they serve your purpose. Check your spelling. Read through for clarity. Think through what you are trying to get across. Make necessary adjustments. All too often, people rush to get a message out, only later to find errors or to receive unintended responses.
Making your communications CRISP doesn’t have to take a lot of time. Once you become familiar with these steps, you’ll be able to apply them in many situations. Quickly walk through them in your mind as you’re having that brief hallway conversation or responding to an email. Or, use the steps to more carefully craft your presentation or to plan for a meeting. Even a small effort can be worth the reward.
Keep it CRISP.