Communicate to effect action

Experts often describe communicating as getting your message across. Being understood is necessary but insufficient if you want to get ahead – communication has to result in the listener taking action or changing his behavior. The following ideas can help you to excel in communication.

  • Understand the person’s will and skill to act, i.e. how motivated and able he is to do it. It requires knowing ‘where the other person is coming from’ – his context, his point of view, and his reservations.
  • Use situation, complication, and resolution to introduce a topic when you want to be understood. The situation is a non-controversial description of the context. The complication refers to a problem within the situation, and the resolution is how the problem can be solved.
  • Use a tree structure to organize your points. Two to 4 main points support the key point. A number of sub-points (3 to 5 items) support each main point. Every point and sub-point should be a message, not a category.
  • At every level, the points are most powerful when they are MECE (pronounced mee-see), meaning mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive – in other words, there are no gaps and no overlaps. When the points are not MECE, they could be confusing. The items in each level should be similar, i.e. don’t mix branches and leaves.
  • There is always more than one way to spin the message and organize the ideas. Use other kinds of structures such as by chronology or category only when you cannot fit in a tree structure.
  • Put the conclusion or recommendation upfront when the audience is friendly and familiar with the message. Putting the conclusion at the end is more effec
  • tive with a less supportive audience.

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