Wise advice about how to communicate effectively during this crisis

“To achieve good communication, spokespeople need to adhere to the three Ts; be transparent, truthful and timely in sharing information.  But they need more.  They need empathy and wisdom to guide them in their choice of words.

“Why? Because the simple exchange of facts will not always drive action. We don’t emotionally trust facts; we trust people – or we don’t.  In addition, we tend to trust authoritative voices that demonstrate powerful listening skills. As we process facts emotionally, we trust leaders who move beyond financial and medical data and speak to us in a voice that echoes how we feel, right now.”

These are the wise words of Gil Bashe, managing partner, global health for Finn Partners, in an article he wrote in today’s PR News online: Why We Need to Communicate from the Heart Now.

He reminds us,” As communicators, we must strive to provide the level of engagement that serves not only the mind, but also the heart and soul.”

“Our role is to provide accurate, empathetic communication with transparency, truthfulness and timeliness. We can help our profession rise to this occasion, helping people understand the unfolding situation compassionately, so that they can make the right decisions for themselves and for their loved ones.

“Never before has communications had the power to help society in the way that it does just now.”

Let’s remember Gil’s wise words, communicators, as we get to work!





A Question for You

When having a conversation with someone who has a different opinion than yours on a topic, what do you tend to do?

Ignore them?

Contradict them?

Shame them?

Or ask them questions to learn why?

The most knowledgeable, astute people I know are curious and open-minded. Rather than ignoring or arguing with those who hold different views, they aim to learn from others.

What can we gain by being inquisitive and receptive?

In a Psychology Today article, Warren Berger, who was researching the power of questioning, learned that asking thoughtful, curious questions of other people builds rapport and trust – even when they have very different views and opinions than ours.

Understanding different perspectives also broadens our own perspective and enriches our knowledge.

We can all benefit from this approach. Every person we meet has something to teach us.

Shaped by our own life experiences, each of us sees the world from a different perspective. Another person’s point of view is not necessarily right. Or wrong. It’s simply their own perspective.

So rather than trying to impose our beliefs on another person or belittling their feelings about an issue, asking questions and listening open-mindedly to their responses can broaden our understanding.

As well, seeing issues from others’ perspectives enables us to solve problems with solutions that work for more of us.

When discussing topics with others whose views are different than ours, judgment-free questions like the following can help us gain greater insight.

That’s interesting; can tell me more about why you feel that way?

Help me understand – can you explain what you mean by that?

Instead of creating resentment and division, by respecting our differences we can gain knowledge, clarity and trust.

And aren’t these good for all of us?

Why Sober Second Thought should be the First Priority when Communicating

How often do you wish that you hadn’t texted that thought?

Or blurted that criticism?

Or emailed that comment?

Or tweeted that opinion?

The problem is, the way we communicate today encourages speed and impulsiveness. And when we do things quickly, without thinking them through, there are more opportunities for mistakes, regrets and repercussions.

Instead, practicing sober second thought is good practice.

Don’t act immediately. Take a few minutes, even a few seconds, to give your brain a chance to think through your words. Then ask yourself 3 questions.

  1. What’s my goal?

Consider what outcome you expect from this communication.

  1. Is communicating necessary?

Sometimes choosing not to comment or respond is the best course of action. Communicating  something critical is generally unhelpful at best and damaging at worst. Simply being silent can often be the wisest choice.

  1. What positive words and phrases can I use to communicate helpfully?

Screen whatever thought first comes to mind and consider whether there’s a better way to communicate it.

If we say or write something we really shouldn’t have, it’s important to apologize quickly and meaningfully. But remember, making a habit of poor communication and frequent apologies undermines our credibility.

We can’t retract what’s done, and the impact of words, both positive and negative, can last a long time – even forever. So, let’s choose words with sober second thought.

Conquer the most difficult communication challenges of 2019 with integrity, transparency, authenticity

“What do you think will be the most difficult challenge for communicators in 2019?”

PR News recently posed this question to several respected communicators in major North American organizations. Many of their responses had a common theme: in a noisy environment of mistrust, getting our honest messages heard, and gaining the confidence of our audiences, will be the most difficult challenges.

Fortunately they also offered helpful advice, like the following, to address these challenges.

“reach across those barriers in representing our brands and organizations, and conduct ourselves with the highest degree of integrity, civility, and ethics”   Rob Stoddard, SVP, Industry & Association Affairs –  NCTA – The Internet & Television Association

“guide audiences to the evidence they need to make an informed decision”   Chris Loder, VP, External Communications  – Bayer Corp.

“if you can make decisions that align with such values as integrity and accountability, both as an organization and as leaders, then that’s half the battle.” Barbara Cosio Moreno, Executive Director, Communications & Outreach – San Diego Convention Center Corporation

“an unwavering commitment to integrity, transparency and authenticity from communicators”  Anne Cowan, CCO – CTAM

People want to interact with individuals and organizations they respect and trust. So how can we communicate with integrity, transparency and authenticity to gain others’ confidence?

Here are some helpful guidelines.

  • Aim to earn the respect and trust of our audiences
  • Demonstrate (rather than talk about) trustworthiness
  • Ensure the information we share comes from reliable sources
  • Prioritize honesty and consistency in all communications
  • No hidden agendas – communicate candidly and openly
  • Show genuine understanding for the problems, needs and feelings of our audiences
  • Be concerned about the potential impact on these audiences of what we communicate
  • Do what we say we’ll do
  • Admit mistakes when we make them
  • Invite input and feedback; then listen and learn

When it comes right down to it, to get our messages heard and gain the confidence of our audiences, as Anne Cowan suggests, it takes consistently communicating with integrity, transparency and authenticity.

It’s the honest truth.

Wisdom Matters

How often do you receive really dumb communications? Like truly fake news? Incorrect info? Hurtful comments? Simply stupid statements?

For many of us, it’s way too often.

This is why wisdom matters.

When it comes to communicating effectively, wise people do it best.

Listening to people who are the opposite of wise inflames the anger and misunderstanding many of us experience today.

“Wisdom is oriented toward social harmony and the good of the people around us, not just toward ourselves,” says Jonathan Rauch, exploring the qualities of wisdom in the recent Globe & Mail article, Why Wisdom Might be Ripe for Rediscovery. “The benefits of having wise people and behaviour in our midst spill over to make life better for the rest of us.”

So how do we find wisdom?

Along with  “the ability to use knowledge and experience to make good decisions and judgments” (Cambridge Dictionary), wisdom has a number of specific qualities. By seeking out people with these characteristics, and paying attention to what they communicate, all of us can benefit.

Rauch and psychology professor Laura Carstensen mention some of the traits that are integral to wisdom.

  • Use pragmatic knowledge of life to resolve personal and social problems
  • Try to understand situations from multiple perspectives and are tolerant
  • Able to cope with ambiguity and uncertainty
  • The ability to regulate emotions
  • A capacity for reflection and dispassionate self-understanding

What’s perhaps most valuable about wisdom for all of us is that wise people also possess compassion and concern for the common good. And they demonstrate generativity ­ – a need to contribute to society and to do things that benefit future generations.

Advice and guidance from wise people encourages us to do what’s right.

So let’s seek out wisdom. Let’s encourage and support, listen and learn from, wise people – those individuals who communicate accurately, sensitively, compassionately and helpfully.

Wisdom matters.


Read. Lots. Often.

Want to succeed in your career or business?

Three tips: read, lots, often.

While skimming headlines on our smartphones is the new norm that constitutes reading for many of us, it’s taking a toll on our communication skills: listening, speaking and writing.

Yet solid communication skills are crucial for success in many fields of work.

According to Psychology Today, reading on screens can stress the brain and interfere with deep learning. By setting aside our smartphones and other screens for just a few minutes each day and reading a variety of materials, however, we can build the skills we need for success. At the same time we will reap additional benefits that enhance our lives overall.

Here are six important reasons why we should read. Lots. Often.

  1. Builds language competence because we learn new words and how to use vocabulary and to structure thoughts and sentences.
  2. Improves our writing by exposing us to other styles and forms of writing, and better writing than our own.
  3. Enhances listening capabilities by strengthening our ability to focus, comprehend information and acquire meaning.
  4. Generates new ideas by exposing us to new concepts, people, places and events outside of our own experience.
  5. Exercises the brain and strengthens function, including mental flexibility, memory and thinking skills.
  6. Reduces stress by enabling us to immerse ourselves in stories or other content. Reading can actually reduce heart rate and muscle tension, calming our minds and relaxing our bodies.

So next time our smartphones make us feel stressed, anxious or depressed, let’s turn ’em off and start reading something else, something different from our usual preferences. Newspapers, journals, books, articles, short stories, plays, essays, poems, lyrics, comics – there are unlimited options for new learning opportunities.

Destress, exercise our brains, improve communication skills, succeed.

It’s a no-brainer. Let’s get into the habit of reading, lots, often.

True Story: stories communicate better than facts

Why do so many of us believe fake news and act on dubious sources of information?

Likely because the individuals communicating the info tell a better story than the real experts.

The work of respected educators, researchers, scientists, entrepreneurs, business and nonprofit leaders may be based on facts – but their communications with non-experts should be based on stories. Because facts don’t make people change their thinking or behaviour. Stories do.

As social media increasingly muddles fact and fiction, the way we frame information when we communicate has a dramatic impact on whether the intended recipients pay attention to it and how they process it.

In my last blog post, I mentioned how neuroscience research shows that when receiving communications our brains pay attention and respond according to filters. As far as our minds are concerned – truth, facts, accuracy –  these are not top filters. Our brains are more engaged by emotionally compelling stories. The reason? Neuroscience also tells us our need to connect with one another is as strong as our instinct to survive.

Stories connect us by developing common ground and understanding. When people relate to a story, they are more receptive to the ideas being communicated.

Unlike facts, powerful stories establish tension that needs to be resolved. They show us a better place and a way to get there. This tension helps to persuade people to change thinking or behaviour in order to move to that better place.

So if you want to influence how people think, feel or act, before stating the facts, start with a great story.

Here are the principles of captivating storytelling.

Present a problem that encourages your audience to keep reading/listening/ watching – capture their attention and imagination with a fascinating story that introduces the context and a relatable challenge. Align the problem with something your audience has, or could, experience.

Show what’s possible  –  the beneficial end result of what it would be like if the problem were solved. How could it make life/work better? Show how it will be worth the effort to get there.

Explain how to  get there –  your solution to the problem. Make your key points. What’s special or transformative about the resolution? How does it address the problem or challenge? Demonstrate this with an example.

Describe the impact  your solution has or could have. Now you can support your story with facts, but also include an example or two as part of the story to illustrate the impact. How were people affected by the solution to the problem? What positive differences did it make?

Conclude with a call to action – consider what you want your audience to think or do after hearing your story.   As you wrap up, invite them to do it.

Ready to educate, motivate or persuade? Begin with a story of struggle and triumph. It will engage the brain, capture the heart, and make change happen.