Say what is relevant, clearly and immediately.
Communicating effectively is difficult. Even for people who do it well, there are too many variables involved, too many moments where personal history makes something innocent and simple seem misinformed, sarcastic or evil. To communicate well, you have to be determined and attentive.
Why bother to communicate well? Why not communicate, and stop there?
The importance of effective communication
Ultimately, we all want to create a reality where we create and enjoy the best experiences. We want to build the Sagradia Familia, this magnificent cathedral in Barcelona, Spain. We want to experience peace and comfort. We want to meet the challenges head-on without being the challenge ourselves. We want to move forward, not sideways, not backwards. We want better lives, not worse.
We all swim in the same stream. As John Donne wrote in 1624, “No man is an island”. We are drops in an ocean, each an individual brick on a road. We work best when we work together, even within our small spheres of influence.
Positive experiences begin and depend on effective communication.
Express important points early
In journalism, there is a central principle: “Don’t bury the trail.” Always mention the most interesting or important point at the beginning of a conversation.
For example, imagine a team meeting where the manager says, “Well, nothing really important is happening today, other than we’re fixing some minor issues with cardinalization, and head office has decided that everyone would immediately get vested shares in the company before it goes public.”
Why the hell wouldn’t you run with the acquired shares? The cardinalization is excellent and makes the text easy to read, but you just gave each employee a ton of money. This is what everyone would like to know first. Cardinalization is irrelevant by comparison.
It’s “burying the trail”, and it happens all the time in interactions. There is particular satisfaction when you intelligently deliver an idea and watch the recipients’ shocked and amazed realization of what that information means.
Generally, though, that satisfaction isn’t worth playing games with your audience. Ultimately, you’ll just train them to listen with half an ear.
Effective communication provides relevant information early and immediately.
Attract and hold the attention of an audience
The need to present relevant information quickly is especially critical with an Internet audience. If the very first sentence doesn’t capture their attention, they’ll click away and leave your words behind. Worse, the next time you have information to share, they might remember that negative experience and ignore you.
That’s why the first sentence of this article is the most important sentence, because it sums it all up: “Say what’s relevant, clearly and immediately.”
Concretely, this means that you have to figure out what to say before you say anything. It may mean saying nothing at all. If you say the wrong thing or fill the air with less relevant content, it tricks readers and listeners into thinking you’re less relevant.
In some environments with multiple cultures, this is a difficult task. You’re supposed to open up with greetings and meaningless interaction before launching into a topic. However, people from other cultures think it’s a waste of time.
Always be ready to show grace, although you don’t have to accept all cultural expectations. For members of a culture, limit greetings to short and sweet; meanwhile, people from another culture might tolerate such time-wasting greetings.
Regardless of social intricacies and cultural preferences, always seek to provide information that makes the most difference to given audiences, and focus on that first.
Don’t “bury the lead”. Build your communications so that if your audience listens to a single sentence, they get what they need most. Communicating effectively may be less fun than chaining your listeners to the melodious strains of your suave tones, but in the end, it’s more respectful for everyone. They hear what they need and can respond appropriately and proportionately, and you look better because you’re not wasting everyone’s time.