The cost of failing to communicate

The cost of failing to communicate

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Failing to communicate isn’t entirely accurate. What mostly happens are well-intentioned if clumsy attempts that land as overly wordy, inadvertently patronising and jargon-filled information.

And over and again, those efforts routinely fail to get any message across. Which is ironic given the roots of the word. Communicate emerged in the 1500s and derived from the Latin phrase
commūnicātus, meaning imparted.

So, given we’re buried by a daily avalanche of information, why does it impart so little?

A few years ago, I wrote about the Goldilocks problem organisations face when communicating. It’s always too much or too little, never just right. But while quantity and modes of delivery are convenient villains. Content is the bigger culprit.

Communicate however you want. Chat, face-to-face, email, social media, SMS, video, PowerPoint, printed materials or something else. All are valid options when you put what you intend front and centre in choosing which one.

I don’t mind how I get information as long as it’s relevant, helps my work or some other aspect of my life, is interesting, snappy and, above all, human.

When information is irrelevant, self-interested, dull, bloated and bureaucratic, you will sacrifice recipients energy, understanding and interest. Rippling out through your organisation in undesirable outcomes.

Are your engagement scores sitting somewhere below the waterline? People leaving in droves or marking time until they can? Staff unsure about their role? Teams stuck in endless check-ins?

The problem, more often than not, is poorly-conceived content. Organisations dish up surveys like candy at Halloween to find out what staff want and how they feel. They invest massive resources in initiatives, programs, products, and services.

Only to drop the ball in how they communicate—wasting people’s effort and knee-capping potential. Then, wonder why they ignore new processes, don’t use products and stick with the status quo.

Look at organisations who avoid that above list of struggles, and you’ll find communicators delivering crisp, well-planned, relevant content.

What does well-thought-out information look like?

It puts the recipient’s needs first. Is organised to flow and tell a story. Avoids jargon and acronyms. And uses clear, visual language.

In the dazzling book “Several Short Sentences About Writing,” author Verlyn Klinkenborg begins, “Know what each sentence says. What it doesn’t say. And what it implies. Of these things, the hardest is knowing what each sentence actually says.“”

While he’s talking about writing, the same advice holds for any information. Not knowing what you’re saying is where promises come unstuck, and experience unravels.

Written and spoken words, images and actions combine to set expectations between you and others. And they add or erode value held in your brand every time you impart something.

See you next time

P.S. If you want to communicate better, click here.

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