Were you told by your parents to think before you spoke? I recall rolling my eyes every time my mother said that to me; yet the wiser I grow, the more I realize she’s right. Effective communications take deliberation. Every time I send a tweet, I am grateful for the fact that I have only 140 characters in which to do so. It keeps me from sending something I’ll regret.
This same kind of deliberation is necessary when communicating internally in a business. How many of us have seen a colleague send an email that we all know he regretted the moment he hit the send button? I don’t mean the angry email demanding a raise. I mean one that simply didn’t get across a point because it was obvious no thought went into it.
How do you keep your internal communications from appearing thoughtless? There are three questions you should ask about internal communications before you send or publish them, no matter the source. Answering yes to all three will ensure your communications will help your business thrive. Answering no to any one of them will require some action before they are deemed worthy to send.
Question 1: Is there a goal?
All internal business communications should have a goal. Why? Because asking anyone to digest a communication that doesn’t have a clear goal is a waste of that person’s time, even if it’s an email about lunch.
Are you crafting an email to your manager about a business decision? You may want to reassess your email’s goal, especially if you’re writing it in anger. Instead of venting your frustrations, the true goal in this case may be to have a conversation about the business decision. Time to delete all the ranting and ask to schedule a meeting instead.
Once your meeting is scheduled, even this communication should have a goal. Prepare notes to keep your goal in sight during your meeting. Have a sales presentation coming up in the near future? Winging it may be your style; but if you want your audience to get anything worthwhile from what you have to say, it’s better to at least have an outline with your goals clearly stated. This will guide not only you but also your audience.
Question 2: Is it clear and precise?
Keep it simple. Don’t use 100 words when 50 will do. Even in internal communications, keep jargon to a minimum. What your team easily understands may not be clear to another. If you must explain, keep Question #1 in mind when doing so. Do all the words serve your purpose? If not, excise them.
Question 3: Is the tone appropriate?
Along with telling me to think before I spoke, my parents always told me to watch my tone. Tone is difficult to convey in writing, as tone is your attitude toward the person receiving the communication.
Your tone will come across in verbal communications, and it’s easy to judge if it’s appropriate by the body language of your audience. If you’re unsure if your tone is appropriate, one way to check is to think empathetically, as Quiip’s General Manager Julie Delaforce writes. If your audience would feel upset receiving your communication, you need to change its tone.
Asking yourself these three questions before sending, publishing or presenting any internal communication will help you be a more effective communicator. Guide your team members through using these three questions, and nothing will get lost in translation, no one’s time will be wasted and no one’s feelings will be hurt.
Hattie James is a writer and researcher living in Boise, Idaho. She has a varied background including education and sports journalism. She is a former electronic content manager and analyst for a government agency. Follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn.