I get my best ideas in the shower. Others may turn for inspiration to the Internet or to brainstorming with colleagues; for me there’s something about the movement of water that gets the creative juices flowing. (Except when water is flowing into my house, as it did during the recent devastating thunderstorm in Toronto. But that’s another story!)
Because I do a lot of work in the area of business communication, (i.e. workshops, writing and presenting), I’m always trying to come up with ways to help people achieve mastery in their communication. The other day in the shower I found myself thinking that understanding how we think is key to achieving winning communication. It’s not unlike problem solving. We all tackle problems in our own way, sometimes with more success, sometimes less. The degree of success is directly connected to our approach to the problem. But if we are analytical and understand how we solve problems, we have a better chance of modifying our problem-solving habits and getting better results. It’s the same with communication.
There are two kinds of brain activities that rule our problem solving and communication abilities. One is at a subconscious level; the other is at a meta level, where we analyze our own processes. What I’m talking about is metacognition, which boils down to this: “knowing about knowing.”
Understanding this concept matters, because gaining control of our own cognitive processes will help us be more deliberate in the way we communicate. And if we have control over the way in which we communicate, our chances of being heard and understood are that much greater. I think of it as “meta planning for success.” And these five steps are crucial to the process. Although I’ve outlined them in terms of written work, the core ideas apply to any form of communication.
Five steps for mastering winning communication
1. Begin at the end: Begin with the end in mind — you need to know your goal and your intended audience.
2. Think laterally: Don’t just leap in and start writing from point a. to z., brainstorm and stretch your thinking, writing down the ideas as they come.
3. Rough it out: Construct a rough version of the best ideas, with a view towards putting them in a logical sequence.
4. Streamline: Go through your work again, streamlining, modifying, and chopping anything that is repetitious.
5. Check the fine print: Do a fine edit; read through slowly and carefully, and proofread for mistakes.
If you are not used to breaking down the communication process in this way, it may seem daunting at first. In fact, someone at a workshop I led recently told me she was concerned that these steps would take too long. But I reassure you, as I did her, that once you begin to work in this logical, thoughtful way, it will quickly become second nature.
And if you do, you’ll have a much better chance of creating winning communication, instead of creating something you may well need to redo because it’s confusing or incomplete. And you won’t even have to get wet in order to create that winning communication!
Do you have any questions about creating winning communication? Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.