How often do you feel misunderstood when communicating, whether it be by email, in person, or text?
Do you often feel like your messages are not received how you intended them to be?
If you are nodding your head, then you know how unsatisfying it is when the person you are talking to does not get what you are saying.
The good news is that you can learn to be a better communicator.
In this episode, I lay out a seven-step formula to ensure your side of the street is clean when it comes to communicating effectively and powerfully.
Prefer the audio? Listen here.
Why Is Communication Hard?
Communication is something we do every day, yet with some people in our lives, it can be a complex and difficult dance.
Part of it is because of what we learned in childhood.
All of us have a communication blueprint. By blueprint, I mean a paradigm in your unconscious mind of how you believe life (in this case, communication) is supposed to work.
Think about the home you grew up in. What did you learn about communication?
Growing up, in my home, we used fairly direct communication when talking about something positive.
But if there was a problem, communication became indirect, confusing, and passive-aggressive. No one wanted to talk about it. Of course, the problem was still there, but we did not effectively talk about or manage it.
Your downloaded communication blueprint has everything to do with your family, where you grew up, where they grew up, the time in which they grew up, the culture, and the social norms.
For example, depending on which country you live in, being direct might be considered rude.
Take the South in the U.S. – they have mastered the art of indirect communication. When they want to say someone is a hot mess or an idiot, they typically say, “Bless their heart.” You might not know it is insincere if you haven’t traveled around the U.S. or you are from a different country.
This is almost like speaking in code, and to the best of our ability, we want to avoid it in the relationships we care about. Being as clear as you possibly can gives you the best shot of getting your needs met.
Want to gain greater clarity around your communication blueprint? Download the guide here and answer the questions to see where your communication style originates from.
The 7 Cs of Communication
The 7 Cs of Communication framework was coined by Scott M. Cutlip and Allen H. Center in 1952, and it is still relevant today.
While this communication framework is based on business and the workplace, I think it applies to interpersonal communication, too.
Here is a breakdown of the 7 Cs.
To be clearly understood, you need to clearly express what you want to say. The person you are speaking to needs to easily understand your objective.
If you find it challenging to ask for what you want, you may feel compelled to say more than is necessary out of insecurity. It is important to be mindful of this tendency as building a wall of words between you and others can muddy your message.
What happens when you are unclear? You risk losing your audience.
An example of this is when someone interrupts themselves while telling a story to remember the day of the week something happened. “Was it Tuesday, or did it happen on Thursday…? Maybe it was last week…”
Unless this information impacts your story (unlikely), you lose your audience by interrupting yourself. The other person probably doesn’t care and just wants to hear the rest of the story.
Not only do we want to communicate clearly, but we also want to be concise.
Redundancies are unnecessary. When we feel like we need to say the same thing 10 different ways, it is usually because, again, we feel insecure. (I know I was guilty of this when I began blogging back in 2010!)
As you become more confident in your ability to communicate clearly and concisely, you likely won’t feel the need to restate your case as much as before. The case you initially build will be strong enough on its own.
Communicating concretely means we do not pose our opinion as fact. What is said needs to be credible and backed up with data, especially with business communication. Otherwise, be clear you are talking about personal observations or anecdotes.
When you communicate with someone, your message should contain all the relevant information they need to know.
When I was younger, I used to send emails with incomplete information because I was impatient. I would say, “I’ll get back to you with the rest when I hear from Bob.”
I’ve learned that it is much more efficient to hold off on sending messages until I have all the information someone else might need. It is less efficient (and unnecessary) to go back and forth with someone five times trying to gather all the pieces together.
By the way, “complete” does not mean all the information in the world. It just means the information the other person needs to move forward.
Following the rules of grammar makes your communication much easier to understand, and there is no excuse these days as we all have access to spellcheck.
I personally use Grammarly on my work devices, which has a free basic plan in addition to spellcheck.
I was not an English major and am naturally a bad speller. When people started pointing out errors in my emails, I was embarrassed and went out of my way to ensure anything I sent was error-free.
Using correct grammar applies to social media, too. Unless you do it for humor (memes anyone?), you do not want to make huge spelling mistakes on your Instagram captions or Facebook updates. People will likely judge you and your business based on errors in external communication.
If you add information to your messages, make sure your additions form a coherent whole. Your entire message has to make sense, not just to you, but to everyone else who has to follow your train of thought.
Over the years, I have learned less is more. When I think I need to say a lot, I often put a message in draft. After 24 hours, I come back and ask, Is there any way to make this leaner and more precise? I will make the edits needed and then press send.
Being understood succinctly and accurately is extremely important to me. Maybe it is because I am a highly sensitive person or an empath, but being misunderstood is painful, annoying, and agitating. If I am misunderstood, I need to keep having the conversation until I feel I have done the best I can or the other person actually understands me.
Of course, there will be people in our lives who are committed to misunderstanding us. Or there may be people who are very literal, like my husband Vic.
If I use voice-to-text and it accidentally translates ‘Vic’ to ‘Nick,’ a non-literal person would likely say, We’ve been married for 25 years, you know how to spell my name, you were probably just using voice-to-text.
Not Vic. He will text me back, “Who is Nick?”
I know he does not misunderstand me on purpose (sometimes he does it to be funny). His brain is just wired to be literal. This is why clear communication is so important.
This is mainly a business communication tip. I am courteous with my closest pals, but I am not overly polite or formal with the people I communicate with daily. To be courteous, use a friendly tone without any undertones of hostility or passive-aggressiveness.
By becoming a powerful and effective communicator, you will become a more direct communicator, which is the opposite of passive-aggressive.
We all come at communication in a very specific way. The guide (which you can download here) contains some questions you can answer to reveal your downloaded communication blueprint. By answering these questions, you will start to realize why you communicate in the specific way you do because all of us are influenced by our family of origin, culture, country, and social norms.
Regardless of what your communication blueprint might say, I believe we can all improve at communicating because it is a skill. By trying and putting your intention out there, you absolutely can get better at communicating.
I am curious to know: what did you learn about communication from your family of origin? Do you consider yourself an effective communicator right now? Will you use these 7 Cs of communication when you are writing something? Let me know in the comments or over on Instagram (@terricole).
I hope you have the most amazing week communicating powerfully and empathically and as always, take care of you.