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Volume 32, Issue 2

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Monday, 29 June 2015 05:00

The Right Words Can Be Hard To Find

Written by  Vicki Thomas

column-6-29Often it can be challenging to know what to say. This includes both the good times and the not-so-good times. Communication is one of the trickier aspects of being human. You’d think that after so many instances of watching, hearing and reading about others messing things up, that we’d have it all figured out by now. Nope, not really.

At it’s most basic it should be straight-forward: say, write, speak what you mean. Don’t talk in circles. Be upfront and honest when mistakes are made. Don’t try to ignore the question and change the topic. When you do this - others will as well.

But as we learn from a very young age, this simply is not the case. Just when we think we’ve figured out how to say what we want, the rules change. Think about the communication rules for business - it used to be possible to take the time to carefully develop and strategize a communication plan. Teams of people and likely even consultants were brought in to determine how the company would be communicating for the next four quarters. There would be themes, messaging proposals and entire strategies that involved detailed planning. It used to be that with this model and system of business communication that there really weren’t any surprises (hopefully).

CEOs and employees stuck to the script. No one asked questions about things that weren’t highlighted in the press release or pre-approved list of questions. There were no leaks.

So what about the business communication rules of 2015? Are there any rules? How does a company (large or small) (new or established) (making money or losing money) actually communicate in 2015?

Very very carefully. In this digital age there are no secrets. Nothing is ever forgotten. Nothing happens in a vacuum. There are no secrets.

This can make it very challenging to know who to trust. How do you as a business owner or decision-maker decide that the person you’re direct messaging with via Twitter is a trusted and known source? How do you as an employee really know that there isn’t a secret email list at your company about projects you’ll likely never get to work on (yes, this happens all the time)? How do you as a buyer trust the brand’s PR company when they tell you that the issues at the factory or the bacteria scare are unfounded and not true?

The answer lies with one word: communication. The better you are at communication, the better your chances are of getting the real information and answers that you want and need. Simple isn’t it?

What does this have to do with business continuity? Well, regardless of if you’re in a state of crisis or not - you need to be able to communicate effectively. Imagine a scenario where an employee has leaked an internal email and now you’re company is trending (and not in a good way) - what do you do? how do you respond? Or imagine a scenario where you’re looking to hire a new high-ranking employee - how do you know that you can trust this person with managing and growing your company?

It’s even hard to communicate the theme of this column. The truth of the matter is this: we all need to get better at communication. This is backbone of success and happiness - at business and at home. Think of how your five year old child, niece, or nephew speaks - honestly and openly. Imagine if this happened more often - we admit our mistakes, we applaud good work, we say what we want, we answer the question asked of us, and we say it like we mean it.

Maybe this would put an end to the stress, strategizing and hand-wringing that comes with unwritten rules of business communication in 2015? It’s not 1985 anymore. The rules of business communication have changed so much that there aren’t any rules. You simply need to be ready to communicate - whenever and however.

For some more thinking about communication, take a look at these articles: