BullhornIn the book “Point Man,” author Steve Farrar recounts how Albert Einstein was once invited to speak at Swarthmore College.  Before a sizeable crowd, the great theoretical physicist stepped up to the podium and said, “Ladies and gentlemen, I am very sorry, but I have nothing to say.”

The audience was stunned.

Einstein then returned to the podium and said, “In case I have something to say, I will come back and say it.”

Half a year later, Einstein contacted the college’s president and said, “Now I have something to say.” This time, Einstein stood before a crowd at Swarthmore College and delivered a speech.

Communication Tip # 1:  Have something to say.

When you begin to write an e-mail or even a text message, when you pick up the telephone, when you set out to write a blog post, ask yourself, “What am I really trying to say?”

For example, in this blog, I want for you, the reader, to actually get some valuable tips that will truly help you communicate better in any context – whether it’s at work or at home.  And I would like for this advice to be understandable.

Sometimes, you may think you know what you want to say. Before you begin writing or talking, you might ask yourself, “What’s the main thing I want to say?”  Reduce your message to the essential words.  When you get through with this brief exercise, you should be able to say, “That’s what I really mean!”

Then, like Einstein, you can really accomplish something with what you say or write.

Communication Tip # 2:  Keep it simple. 

In a recent LinkedIn post, I saw where Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Airlines, is quoted as saying, “Complexity is your enemy. Any fool can make something complicated. It is hard to make something simple.”

A writing coach once visited the newspaper where I worked.  He gave the editorial staff advice on how to structure their news stories and headlines.  I remember him saying that The New York Times was a good, basic newspaper.  At the time, I thought that was a little unusual, that The New York Times was really a very sophisticated publication.  Now, I look back and agree with the man. When you read The New York Times, you can understand things that are indeed complex, sophisticated and at a lofty level.  That’s because the reporters and editors of that newspaper understand what they’re writing about and can explain it in a way that the average person can comprehend.  They practice what Branson said, taking the complex and making it simple to understand.

In your communications, make sure you understand what you’re writing or speaking about.  Then tell it in a way that is clear and easily grasped.  You don’t have to use big words.

Communication Tip # 3:  Know your audience

In communication, there are five elements: a source, a message, a medium of communication, a receiver and feedback.  Let’s consider the model of communications as it applies to newspapers.  There is a source.  In this case, that would be the journalists of the newspaper.  They write stories and headlines, take photos and design pages.  The message is: whatever is happening that is of the greatest significance.  The medium of communication would be newsprint, with stories and pictures applied in ink.  The receiver is a man or woman picking up the newspaper and reading it.  The feedback would be a letter to the editor or a phone call to the newsroom, to complain about something that was wrong in a story, to give further information for a future story or, possibly, to praise a job well done.

The key to the entire circle of communication is the receiver or audience.  When you are talking to a co-worker, you obviously speak differently than when you are talking to your 6-year-old.  When you talk to your manager, you speak somewhat differently than when you talk with a close friend.  To maximize your communication effectiveness tailor the content of your message, your vocabulary and your tone of voice (or tone of writing) so that your message resonates with the people to whom you are communicating.  If you have the best interests of your audience at heart, they likely will hear your message, and good should come out of it.

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