- Truth 1 Great Communicators Can Be Made
- Truth 2 Seek to Understand Your Recipient
- Truth 3 Communication Styles Aren't One-Size-Fits-All
- Truth 4 If You Think It Doesn't Make Sense, It Probably Doesn't
- Truth 5 Help Others Help Themselves
Truth 3 Communication Styles Aren't One-Size-Fits-All
Let's assume that you've taken the time to understand the recipient's communication expectations, as discussed in the preceding truth. Through your discovery process, you zero in on how the recipient likes to communicate. You discover, though, that his communication preferences are very different from your style of communicating. He may like structured appointments, while you may prefer "drop-ins." He might enjoy high-level reviews, where you tend toward more detailed discussions. He may prefer e-mail updates, while you function better with verbal updates. Yes, these are big differences, but this doesn't mean you'll forever be in a communication struggle. Quite frankly, you need to have a heart-to-heart discussion with yourself on what is more important: the content you are communicating or the mode in which you are communicating it.
Consider an example. Suppose you're attempting to get buy-off on a major project you're managing with your divisional vice president, and you have only 30 minutes to get your point across and get approval. You have a great project description document that has all the information necessary for justifying the project in a 40-page report. You have a couple of alternatives:
- Bring the project description report to the meeting, and walk through key report aspects with the divisional vice president.
- Prepare an executive summary PowerPoint-type document that presents key report aspects that are important to the divisional vice president.
Design your communication around your recipient.
With the first alternative, your preparation time for the meeting is minimal, because you have all the information prepared and ready to go. However, you run a significant risk of not getting your point across, because you have a lot of information and clutter that can get in the way. With the second alternative, your preparation time for the meeting is increased, because you are creating a special document that has information already contained in the charter document. However, your likelihood of getting your point across is increased, because you've taken away nonessential information and clutter that could get in the way.
This is a great time to ask yourself what is more important: getting approval for your project or saving yourself preparation time. On the surface, most people would say, "Duh—getting approval for the project!" Despite this viewpoint, I've been amazed at the number of times I've seen people in this very scenario choose the first alternative and go down in flames because the information was too clumsy to walk through. Getting approval for the project took second chair to an inappropriate mode of communicating the project. Ugly.
Also take note of this: However you adapt your communication style, make sure your passion doesn't get lost in the words. If your message has the passion of mashed potatoes, you'll have a more difficult time getting your point across effectively. So, regardless of how you adapt your communication style, do so with passion in your message.
The moral of the story is simple: design your communication around your recipient. It may mean that you have to adapt your style to meeting the situation and the recipient's preferences. It may mean that you "lose" because you're adapting to someone else versus their adapting to you. Put your ego aside and focus on the end, which is getting your point across, regardless of how you do it.