Communication can be difficult, and in a busy environment when people are stressed and have a lot on their minds it only becomes harder to get your intentions across clearly and without causing offense or upset. The opportunities for misunderstanding are many and we all have moments when we realise that something important we said got misinterpreted or not heard at all.
So it is helpful to have a few ideas of ways to make sure you are understood, and one technique is called framing. It is simple but effective, and particularly useful in written communications where you have only one chance to get people’s attention. We rely on email a lot in business so it is very important that your message gets through clearly and is remembered.
If you are framing your message, first you have to get their attention and draw their thoughts away from other issues into your world. To do this you state what you are going to say briefly before you actually say it. Email makes it easy to do this by giving you the subject line to introduce your topic. This gets people’s attention and give them a moment of time to bring their attention round to that subject. Then, when you actually start to say it properly you have their attention and they are at least partly on your wavelength. So make sure you use the subject line well giving a clear introduction into the subject. Subjects like “Just a thought” might get their attention but it doesn’t introduce the topic, so try to be specific for example “An idea about the monthly reports”. This will mean that by the time they start reading the email they are thinking about the monthly reports.
Then you are free to say in the email what you need to about the topic. Lovely – but then do one more thing at the end of your email – remember to summarise your message. One last sentence or paragraph which says something like “So you can see my suggestion is that, with a small investment, we can automate the monthly reports and save all of us time in the future”. This reinforces the message and leaves the recipients with a clear nugget of what you are aiming at.
As my father used to put it:
1. Tell them what you are going to say
2. Say it
3. Summarise what you said
If you follow this method in emails you will improve your communications. And remember it doesn’t only apply to emails. Next time you have an important point to get across in a meeting try using this structure there too. It works!
If you want to learn more about communication in leadership, why not come along to our Leadership Skills Development course.