You can have communication or speculation.

There is a line in the Paul Newman movie Cool Hand Luke when first the villain explains that the problem is a failure in communication and then, towards the end, it is repeated by the film’s star.  In the first case, the line is used as a replacement for an apology.  In the second use, it expresses hopelessness.  And a failure to communicate is both.

What some people do not understand is that a lack of communication from a person or organization says a great deal about that person or organization.  It allows others to speculate on their intent, motivation, capabilities, manners and fortitude.  The truth is replaced with rumours.

Some time ago, Babel-on-the-bay received a complaint that something we had written annoyed this individual.  The person told us that they did not have time to read what we write but someone had told him what we had written.  Since he failed to communicate what specific item was not to his liking (or his informant’s), we were left very much in the dark.  All we could do was thank him for his communication.  He had failed to communicate.

This is not to suggest that communicators will always win kudos for what they communicate.  There is still a tendency to shoot the messenger.

While we do not always listen to our own good advice, we do have some tips for the neophyte communicator.

First and foremost, you must always know your audience.  Woe onto him or her who takes the wrong approach with the wrong audience.  If you do not know the audience are you going to speak down to them or accidentally use words they might not understand?   A writers’ tool such as the Gunning fog index can help a writer by ensuring that you are communicating to as broad an audience as possible.

And if the audience does not know you, it is strongly recommended that you refrain from telling jokes.  Joking can get you in trouble.

If you have not been introduced in a way that emphasizes your authority with the subject, try to work in your qualifications (as modestly as possible).

Keep your communications brief.  Keep your sentences short.  Keep your paragraphs short.  Keep your items short.  Keep your speeches, newsletters and letters short. One, two-sided sheet of paper makes a reasonable length, general information newsletter.  Lengthier material will be set aside to be read later and never read.

In addition, stick to the subject.  There always seems to be that urge to stretch a newsletter with material that has nothing to do with why you are communicating.  And when you are done, stop.

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Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

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