The Animals made it popular, but it was Nina Simone who sang it with a soulful ache that made you feel it. Can you relate to these lyrics?
I’m just a soul whose intentions are good
Oh Lord, please don’t let me be misunderstood
Ever had that feeling? During times of transition whether it’s new leadership, new relationships, or new expectations, it’s easy to be misunderstood. Clarity in communication is key: clarity about the message and clarity about the best means of communication.
We’ve all lived through relationships and projects that suffered and even failed due to poor communications. When we can get really clear on our message we’ll save ourselves and others a lot of frustration and headache. There’s a saying preachers use when learning how to preach, “If it’s a mist in the pulpit, it will be a fog in the pew.” What should we do when we have an important message to convey to a significant audience?
- Start by asking, “What’s the bottom line? What’s main thing I want to convey in this message?”
- Take the time to prepare. Don’t wing it, if you can’t fly.
- Draft it and then revise later.
- Read it or say it out loud.
- Ask for and receive feedback.
Another clarifying question to ask is whether people know the best way to communicate with us? If you’re a parent, isn’t it frustrating when your kids won’t answer their phones, but they’ll answer a text in seconds? Wouldn’t it be nice to have some instructions on how best to communicate with the people who matter the most? If there is misunderstanding, confusion, or frustration how should people get a hold of us? Can they email? Will they get a response? Is a phone call worth trying? Should they leave a voicemail? How are we with texting? Should they write a letter? Are there different expectations for different groups? In any relationship, but especially in leadership, it’s a best practice to create expectations early on about how best to communicate.