The Ten Tenets of Effective Communication (Part 1 of 3)

Both you and your audience benefit when your communication adheres to these tenets

Effective communication is about connecting with your audience. It’s about your audience getting your message as you intended. It begins with understanding who your audience is and how they can best ‘hear’ your message, then using this information to craft and deliver your message. This is simply another way of saying that your message, whether written, verbal, or visual, must be audience-centered—focused around the needs of your audience. Put yet another way, communication is less about you and all about them.

Effective communication is simple and clear, focuses around a single idea, and ultimately achieves the results you desire.

columnsTo be most effective, your communication must adhere to these ten tenets. Effective communication is:

  • Honest,
  • Clear,
  • Accurate,
  • Comprehensive,
  • Accessible,
  • Concise,
  • Correct,
  • Timely, and
  • Well designed.
  • It builds goodwill too.

Let’s start with a discussion of the first two and then continue with the remaining eight over my next two blog entries.

Honest. The rock-bottom, most steadfast principle of any communication is honesty. Honesty builds rapport with your audience, and in this age of social media, a strong rapport is vital to success.

Anything short of the truth can cause adverse consequences for both you and your audience. In extreme cases, not telling the entire truth can cause physical harm. Once your audience sees that you are shaving off parts of the truth, not telling the entire story, or worse, distorting the message with misinformation, your communication is doomed.

Blurring the truth of bad news is all too common. In the face of unsettling news, honesty can be disarming simply because it is unexpected.

Any kind of misinformation causes your audience to not only question the validity of your present message, but also your past and future messages. Misleading your audience can cause faulty decision making (such as investing when divesting is more judicious). Dishonest information can easily result in litigation and costly settlements.

These repercussions are some of the many reasons why you must maintain the highest level of integrity in all your communication. But there is a positive reason as well:

Being honest is the right thing to do.

Clear. Clarity enables your audience to get your message as you intended. And isn’t that the whole point.

Instructions especially benefit from clarity. Who among us hasn’t struggled through frustrating assembly instructions, or the less-than-accurate steps for using software features? And yet it’s this lack of clarity that increases traffic to a company’s technical support lines with the corresponding increase in costs.

Clarity is greatly enhanced when communication focuses on a single meaning and message. Clear communication means your audience doesn’t have to guess or fill in the blanks or even ponder your meaning.

(See parts two and three for the last eight tenets.)

–Rich Maggiani

3 Comments, RSS

  1. Yoel Strimling 31 October 2009 @ 3:32 pm

    Hi Rich!
    This list looks very similar to one put together by Wang and Strong in their study on the most important dimensions of data quality (Wang R. & Strong, D. (1996). Beyond accuracy: what data quality means to data consumers. J. of Man. Info. Sys., 12 (4), p.5-34). I’ve been attempting to replicate their findings and apply them to tech documentation – would you be interested in joining this experiment?

  2. Rich Maggiani 2 November 2009 @ 10:59 am

    Sure. Where online can I access the research you mention?

  3. Yoel Strimling 2 November 2009 @ 4:42 pm

    Rich – please contact me offline, and we can discuss it.

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