Our lives are full of talking and communicating. We talk to family, friends, colleagues, customers, and our teams and organizations. We communicate to express our thoughts and feelings. We communicate to express our observations and define our experiences. We communicate to connect with people and convey important messages.
The way we communicate has a profound impact on the people around us. You can use your words to encourage and heal, or you can use your words to discourage and hurt. Your words can bring collaboration, or they can bring conflict.
Effective communication is appropriate for the situation. In some situations it is necessary to speak quietly and gently; in other situations directly and dispassionately; in other situations speaking with an emotional edge is warranted; in still other situations it is best to simply be quiet and listen.
It all depends on the circumstances. Situational awareness and discipline are required. The challenge is to use the right words at the right time in the right way and for the right reason. You must avoid speaking out of impulse or mismanaged emotion. You must be disciplined and discerning about what you say, why you say it, how you say it, when, and to whom.
- Be disciplined about what you say
Examine the content of your message. Is it true and relevant? Is it helpful? Is it accurate? Based on what credible source? Have you done your homework, or is it simply an emotion-based opinion? Is it hearsay? Is it appropriate and effective for the situation? Does it make the situation better?
- Be disciplined about why you speak
Examine your motives. Why are you speaking, writing, or posting? What is your goal? Are you seeking to help or to hurt? Are you trying to build up or tear down? Are you just spreading gossip? If you are expressing a critical opinion, why? For what purpose? Are you speaking from humility or arrogance?
- Be disciplined about how you speak
Consider your method of speaking, writing, or posting. Are you using harsh and abrasive language just to be disparaging and demeaning? Or are you sending messages in an effective, compelling, beneficial way?
- Be disciplined about when you speak
Consider your timing. The right message at the wrong time is the wrong message.
- Be disciplined about to whom you speak
Know your audience, and be aware of how best to connect with and communicate to that person or group. Flexibility is essential, because one style of communication does not fit all situations. And it must be said: Don’t gossip. Talk to people, not about people.
Pay careful attention to the way you communicate. This applies at work with colleagues, in the community with friends, at home with your family, and online. Do you speak with discipline and discernment?
“The wise of heart is called discerning, and sweetness of speech increases persuasiveness.” (King Solomon)
Do the work.