We commonly refer to the 7 C’s of good communication – apply these fundamentals and you will achieve excellence both in your oral and written communication. My thoughts on these below:
- This means that the message should be whole; from beginning to end it should contain information the recipient needs (and reach a conclusion). Preferably the reader/listener shouldn’t have to hunt for the main drive of the message.
- Parsimonious – this was one of my psych lecturer’s favourite words. It actually means to be frugal or stingy, but he would often apply it in terms of writing/communicating. Less is more!
- Keep your message logical. Simply put, as you write, prepare a presentation or simply speak to a person, ask yourself – does this make sense? As subject matter experts in our respective fields, it is easy to think that recipients will easily understand our message, but when communicating to individuals it is useful to remember that they may not have the same terms of reference/experience that we ourselves have. Start from the basics, provide an overview and then work your way up.
- Keep it Simple Stupid! – The KISS Principle. Not the nicest thing my English teacher ever said to me, but useful nonetheless. Avoid tiring your reader/listener with excessive wordiness; say what you mean! If you are planning a large written project, start with a strategy before you start writing – this is time well spent.
- So What? The So What Principle. For every sentence that you write or every explanation that you offer, think, “so what?” Because that is what your reader is thinking. Don’t just say “the what'”, but also explain “the why” – why you are making the point and, above all, how it is relevant to the person you are communicating with. Use specifics.
- RESPECT – “find out what it means to me”. We all know the song; let’s make sure we put it into practice! Consider the person you are speaking to/writing to. The written word can be misunderstood (tone can be lost/added) so unless it is vital that you communicate in writing, it is much better to “walk and talk”. Remember that the person you are dealing with has their own battles to deal with, and keeping this perspective may help lessen an adversarial perspective. We are all on the same team!
- Accuracy will increase the confidence of the person you are interacting with. This doesn’t mean you have to have all the answers; rather, communicate the information that you do have and be direct about what is in progress.
Some experts use different terms including – “Considerate“, “Credible” and “Creative“; I believe these terms speak for themselves, and there is some cross-over in meaning.
My favourite word at university became “Cogency” – defined as the quality or state of being convincing or persuasive. Keep this in mind to give your communications an edge!