- Next trainer development cohort 10th - 14th June 2024

How Not to Communicate in 3 Easy Steps

8th September, 2020

How Not to Communicate in 3 Easy Steps

It wasn’t the answer I was hoping for.

When I did Gretchen Rubin’s personality test a few months ago, I was positive I’d come out as the ‘Rebel‘ – an alternative thinker who enjoys going against the crowd.

After all, I chose my degree subject (Russian) because no-one else I knew was studying it. My personal brand is pretty out there. And I live in London and don’t own a 4×4.

Quite the rebel, I KNOW!

But no. According to the quiz, I’m actually an ‘Upholder‘. Apparently I always do what I say I’m going to do and I have a soft spot for rules.

There goes my street cred (what little I had).

But there is still a bit of the Rebel in me that needs more air time.

So this week I want to give you some anti-rules about communication – what not to do if you want to get your message heard and your points to stick.

How rebellious is that?

Anti-rule #1: Don’t hit CTRL-C

I can smell a copy-and-paste from 50 metres. I bet you can too. You can always tell template emails and documents by their lack of personal touch. The touch that creates connection and get people to act.

When you copy-and-paste you also run a much higher risk of messing up and forgetting to update critical information.

Ever been sent an email addressed to someone else? It sucks, right?

Only use templates as a guide, never verbatim.

Anti-rule #2: Avoid automated sign-offs

Automated email sign-offs like ‘kind regards’ or the-bleach-my-eyeballs ‘KR’ create a terrible impression. They say ‘You’re not important enough for me to bother to personalise this email.’

You wouldn’t say goodbye to everyone in real life in the same way (at least not pre-COVID).

Some people you might handshake, some you might hug, others you might do the awkward ‘is-it-one-cheek-or-two-kiss’ that sometimes ends in a horrifying accidental meeting of lips (an excruciating exchange with a colleague a few years ago is still ingrained on my memory).

A single sign off for all your emails is never going to feel personal or create a connection. Vary it according to how well you know the recipient, how formal they are and what you’re writing about.

Anti-rule #3: Don’t assume your audience is just like you

Just because you love a good spreadsheet, don’t assume they will.

Just because you know your subject matter inside out, don’t assume they’re up on the detail too.

Just because you find your topic fascinating, don’t assume it’s going to hold their attention for more than 3 seconds.

We tend to assume other people like and understand the same things as us.

And that can lead to disastrous comms, pitched at the wrong level or with the wrong focus.

An instant turn off.

So always think about your audience before you prepare any communication.

And if you don’t know what they think or know? Ask them.

A quick clarifying call before you send an email, report or proposal or before your deliver a presentation can be wildly illuminating.

So there you go. How not to communicate. It’s all about the personal touch.

Gah! I think that’s a rule.

University of Cambridge


- Next trainer development cohort 10th - 14th June 2024

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