It’s How You Say It

Think before you speak (or write)

Think about the last thing you communicated. Maybe even pull it up on your phone or in another browser tab. Whatever it happened to be (an announcement or update, an invitation, a resource), was it effective? Did it create the engagement you were hoping for?

If you’re anything like me, it is easy to grow frustrated with my audience’s receptivity or willingness to be bought into whatever I am communicating. If you don’t have the engagement you’re looking for, what if there was a changeyou could make to more effectively influence those you’re trying to reach?

Watch your tone

Do you remember as a kid when a parent or other trusted adult said to you to “Watch your tone!”? This standard reprimand moved us to think about what we were saying. But even more than that, it caused us to think about how we were saying what we were saying. Whether you manage social media, write, communicate verbally, or lead others who do, it is crucial to “watch your tone.” Your organization has a tone, and you portray that tone in the ways you communicate.

So, how’s your current tone? Is it inviting and inclusive? Flat and non-emotive? Is it engaging and compelling? Clear and concise? Taking time to give thought and work on how you’re communicating can increase your reach, build trust, and foster engagement.

We all want our audience to benefit from the things we are communicating. Still, we can unknowingly create barriers between ourselves and those we’re trying to reach if we’re not careful. Let’s consider a few.

Three potential barriers

1. An “us vs. them” mentality

Language like “We want you to come to our event” or “You guys need to know…” creates distance between the communicator and the audience. What you mean to be an invitation or a helpful piece of information can have a tone that makes a reader or listener feel disconnected.

Focus on inclusive and inviting language and use “we, our, together, all of us” as much as possible. Speak to people’s needs in a way that helps them know you see them, you value them, and they are a part of what you’re describing.

2. Vague or confusing language

A second barrier that can be confusing in our communication is when we use vague or confusing language that only makes sense to a minority of people, reinforcing the “us vs. them” barrier described above. Those of us in the church have to be especially conscious of this. In a large group setting, we may say something like, “Stop by our Connect Corner after the experience to engage with a Dream Team member and receive some free church swag!”

How many elements of that kind of statement might be unclear and inaccessible to someone who doesn’t know you or your people well? Does it make sense to everyone who is hearing it?

Avoid jargon and confusing language by anticipating how your listener will hear and engage with the message you are trying to get across. Explain key terms, be clear, and help people recognize how they will benefit from the opportunity in front of them.

3. Lacking call to action or clear next step

Once you’ve put time and energy into being focused and inclusive, a final barrier to be aware of is the inaction that comes when you don’t give people a meaningful next step to take. What do you want people to do? What is the simple first step of engagement?

Do as much as you can to ensure your audience understands the opportunity and how to get involved.

You can do it!

With a little more time and energy, you can communicate in a clear, compelling, and engaging way. Be empathetic and relevant. Take time to clarify any confusion points that may arise for your audience. Watch your tone, be aware of these three barriers, and be excited about the potential impact you can have.

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