The 5 Best Questions To Optimize Your Professional Communications
Your ability to communicate effectively is a huge career asset. It helps you connect to others, enhances your relationships, builds trust, and paves the way for career success by bridging gaps between you and your clients, colleagues, and partners.
Yet all too often, professional communications leave little to be desired. We’ve all been on the receiving end of rambling emails and muddled messages that left us wondering what the sender meant.
The next time you’re ready to hit the send button, ask yourself these five questions first to ensure your message is well-written and well-received:
1. Is it clear?
Maximize the power of your words by simplifying them. Written communication is rife with unnecessary complexity, only made worse with attempts at being cute and clever.
Clarity is the foundation for effective communication because it helps others know, like, and trust you. Without it, you’ll force others to do the difficult work of guessing your intended message. As a result, they’ll most likely get it wrong or be left scratching their heads. And when you confuse people, you’ll lose people. Swap jargon for plain language to increase the odds your message is received and understood.
2. Is it concise?
If every email you send includes a “TL;DR” (too long; didn’t read) summary, you’ve got some work to do. Meandering signals that you’re unorganized and unsure. Worse, you’ll lose your audience’s attention—and the opportunity to communicate.
When preparing a piece, be concise. It becomes unnecessarily complex when you cover too much ground in your communication. A good rule of thumb is that each piece of written communication should have one clear takeaway. This forces you to get specific about and home in on your message. When you want to deliver a message, make brevity your friend by eliminating extraneous material and getting to the point.
3. Is it compelling?
Your word choice sets the tone and elicits an emotional response, two things critical for effective communication.
Consider writing the way you speak for the most natural communication style, especially in non-technical formats. Incorporating your everyday language into your repertoire opens you up to a more descriptive, interesting lexicon that allows you to infuse a bit of personality into your writing, capturing your audience’s attention and ensuring that your message will be more memorable.
Remember, too, that how you communicate is just as important as what you communicate. Action-oriented language conveys a strong, clear tone and propels people to do something rather than remain idle—especially important when seeking a specific call to action. Where possible, minimize passive language and use active voice to add more power and intention to your words.
4. Is it intentional?
There’s a difference between a thoughtfully crafted and reactionary message. To ensure yours is the former camp, take a beat before pressing the send button to consider the purpose of your communication and its timing: is this a crucial bit of information or something else — your opinion, gossip, a knee-jerk defensive reaction, or an offhand comment you haven’t thought through? To help you further qualify it, remember the T.H.I.N.K. acronym, asking yourself if it’s True, Helpful, Inspiring, Necessary, and Kind. If it doesn’t meet most of these criteria, perhaps it’s better not to mention it. By pausing to reflect on your message, you can be more intentional with how and when to deliver it.
5. Is it written with my audience in mind?
Communication is only effective if your audience receives your intended message, so remember this golden rule of communication: it’s not about you.
Far too often, we assume that everyone communicates the same way we do, forgetting that our audiences may not live and breathe in our business world. Also, consider that even two members of the same team may require a slightly different message tailored to the individual. So, before you fire off that email, take a beat to put yourself in your audience’s shoes, consider their wants and needs, and adjust your communications accordingly.
No matter your industry or role, the ability to communicate effectively is essential for your success. And by asking yourself these five questions, you’ll optimize your professional communications.
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