This post is the first in a 3-part series on “Company Communication.” If you’ve read my blog or know me, you know I’m a word nerd. I like to look up the definitions of specific words to help me grasp larger concepts. Well, I’m going full-on word nerd right now. To frame this series I want to define three terms.
The first is “company.” Here’s the definition right from the web.
- a commercial business.
“a shipping company”
- the fact or condition of being with another or others, especially in a way that provides friendship and enjoyment.
“I could do with some company”
I chose to call this series “Company Communication” because of the larger meaning of the word Company. The “Cs” I want to talk about apply to all communication, not just corporate or organizational communication. They apply in whatever company we keep.
The next definition is of “Communicate.” Here’s the web definition summarized;
to convey, share, transmit, impart, pass on information. It comes from the Latin Communis meaning common or shared. Communication has happened when two or more people share a common mind about a subject.
Finally, I find the definition of “Inform” fascinating which, in turn, makes the noun form “information” equally interesting:
“Inform” comes from two Latin words in – into and forma – shape and means “to form or shape the mind.” “Information” is that which shapes or forms the mind.
So, this series is about how a company of people can arrive at a shared understanding of something. It’s about how one person’s or group’s understanding, needs, point of view, expectation, etc. can be duplicated in the mind of another person or group. This could be fun!
Here are two of the six “Cs” of Company Communication:
Why would anyone want to let you form their mind? When put like that it sounds ominous. Be clear about your purpose. Are you reporting facts? Are you wanting to ask for something? Are you preparing to set an expectation? People are much more willing to respond to your “what” when they understand your “why.” Good communication begins with understanding what you’re trying to accomplish with it.
Being clear also means being direct. I mean direct in the sense of the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. Some people use “direct” to mean blunt or as an excuse for being discourteous. I just mean don’t meander about when you’re communicating. Trying to cover too much or going on tangents is confusing.
My wife, Suzi, has accused me of going to Genesis to provide the context for anything. She means I talk too much. I try to provide too much information and it can become confusing. So this is a lesson I’m learning. For me it requires a little planning. When I want to communicate, I need to think through the clearest way to do it.
Concrete is solid and hard and holds up under weight. Concrete communication is not soft or fluffy or vague. It avoids words like “always” and “never.” Concrete communication doesn’t talk about “everyone” or “nobody.” It is specific and factual. Concrete communication is based on observations and understanding, not hunches and feelings. When you use vague generalizations like “always” and “never” you are usually automatically wrong because someone will be able to point out an exception.
Which of these statements is more concrete? “You never take out the garbage.” Or, “I’ve noticed that you didn’t take the garbage out three times this month.” Well, if I took the garbage out once then “never” is wrong. It’s only an emotional accusation. But, three times out of four weeks is a 75% failure rate. The first statement feels more like an insult and I may become defensive and argumentative in response to it. The second is a statement of fact with actionable data. It provides a baseline for measuring improvement and I’m less likely to argue with facts. (NOTE: this story is fictional. Any similarity to actual situations is purely coincidental.)
Company Communication that is clear and concrete is far more useful than meandering or vague communication. Next week we’ll talk about two more “Cs” of Company Communication.