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Team Communication: It’s Not What You Say But How You Say It

Written by Guest Blogger Mary Ila Ward August 17, 2012

Team Communication:  It’s Not What You Say But How You Say It

I was captured last week by this video that was sent to me by a friend. It speaks to the human condition, and highlights that oftentimes, is not what you say, but how you say it that’s important.

Communication is simply the transfer of intended meaning, and if you don’t say it right, meaning can be completely lost or simply mean nothing at all. “I’m blind” seemed to mean nothing to those that passed by, but “It’s a beautiful day and I can’t see it” meant everything.

Here are some tips for focusing on how you say it to improve team and workplace communication:

  • Know your teammates. Know the most effective route for communicating with each person. How do you find out? Usually the best way is to mirror the way they communicate with you.

    If your colleague Jim nine times out of ten gets to the point quickly in an email or in person, then he probably appreciates you getting to the point for him. If Sally asks you how your kids are and then discusses the weather before getting into the meat of what she needs to talk to you about, then you should probably at least ask Sally how her kids are too.

  • Know the most appropriate mode of communication. Need to talk to your boss about a sensitive issue with a teammate? Don’t send it an email. That’s an in person conversation to be had. Don’t quit your team or your job in a text message. Need to make sure all your team members hear the same thing about a project deadline? An email to all may be your best bet with a follow up mention of it at a team meeting.

  • Time your communication. You’re the team lead on a major project and everyone is tired and stressed to the max from working overtime on this project. Calling a meeting to discuss a change in project strategy at 4:00 pm on a Friday afternoon is probably not the best time to communicate this news. Wait until Monday morning or Monday after lunch when people are fresh from the weekend and refocused on work than the time when they most want to get out of the office and go home.

  • Keep it simple. Communicating “It’s a beautiful day and I can’t see it” like the video does proves the point. Enough said, no need to elaborate. Sometimes we over-communicate and when so much is said, nothing is transferred as important.

  • Communicate the why. Having said that keeping it simple is important, sometimes we leave people hanging by not saying enough to explain the why behind a decision made or what was said. Telling everyone on your team, “Everyone is required to fill out a time sheet from now on,” with zero elaboration as to why leaves people questioning why. A simple add on to this statement such as “….because this government contract we are working on requires it,” helps people not assume the worst.

What thoughts do you have on how to say it right?

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