When speaking publicly, rehearsal can bring more fluency to the nervous (and alert the speaker to expressions they may stumble on). Being terrified may require more work to overcome. For written work, always sense-check the appropriateness of content before sending, especially an email.
Communicators should plan what they are going to say and how they are going to say it. We can’t all be great orators or writers, but we can all take the time to prepare a credible, intelligent, and hopefully compelling message. As part of the preparation, it helps to understand and respond to the audience’s likely emotional response as well as their intellectual take on your message.
The power of proofing
Where treasurers increasingly have contact with other functions and external partners, creating the right impression through the written word is important. It may be the first contact and, as the saying goes, first impressions last.
Grammatical errors and poor spelling are signs of carelessness for many people. Proof-read everything but don’t rely on a spell-checker to bail you out; it may correct the word but is the word correct?
For important documents use a second pair of eyes prior to sending. If you have the time, once you have finished your work, walk away from it for a while. Re-reading it later can reveal some fundamental errors.
Everyone is different
Trying to deliver your message across multiple platforms and audiences without tailoring it to the different needs and expectations of your audience is risky. As a treasurer, you can use complex expressions and ideas related to the profession and safely assume that your audience will understand. Try using the same technical language with the board, CEO, or your procurement team, and you will spend much of your time explaining yourself. Or simply fail to communicate.
Jargon and the overuse of acronyms is a sure-fire way to lose the interest of a non-partisan audience. Explaining everything to a knowledgeable audience is patronising and a waste of their time.
Bear in mind too that in a globalised business, cross-border trade can mean cross-cultural communication. Don’t make assumptions; learn about your audience. An understanding of the people with whom you wish to communicate may suggest a rethink of your message, tone and approach, timing and even expectations, to avoid mis-communication.
Learn to listen
Listening is a vital part of communication. The definition of listening offered by Richard Mullender, a former hostage negotiator, is the “identification, selection and interpretation of key words that turn information into intelligence”.
The key to successful listening is to listen for the speaker’s motivators, values and beliefs. Conversations should be used to learn from others, not as a platform to demonstrate your own intellect.
Sound specialist Julian Treasure advises people to adjust their listening ‘position’ according to need. Practice by listening to a speech, trying to focus on a different angle such as from a critical or empathetic perspective and comparing outcomes.
Treasury offers the acronym ‘RASA’ as a guide to better listening: Receive by making eye contact with and focusing on the other person; Appreciate by giving indications of acknowledgment through cues like head nods or short vocal replies; Summarise by getting the other person to clarify the point of anything that doesn’t register; and Ask by posing follow-up questions on whatever you just learned.
Read it right
Correct interpretation of body language is vital if subtle clues are to be incorporated into the overall communication experience. The web resource, Learning Mind suggests successful communication requires the constant observation of the gestures, facial expressions and postures of the recipient to build a fuller picture.
Placing the entire communication – verbal and non-verbal – in context is vital if real meaning is to be derived. Although folded arms and crossed legs can convey a closed mind within the recipient, there may be a practical reason for this stance: they may simply be cold.
Individuals often display idiosyncratic positive and negative non-verbal signals too, such as a certain movement when in a certain situation (tugging an earlobe when nervous, for example). Distinguishing these from everyday movements can help understand their mood in future encounters. Some people are well-versed in body-language and could be deceiving you but observable contradictions may exist.
Although body language is not an exact science, humans will either display a state of comfort (satisfaction, happiness, relaxation) or discomfort (displeasure, stress, anxiety). The difference may not be obvious, or the individual may be trying to cover up their feelings. By correctly interpreting their state of mind, in context, it becomes easier to tailor the communication to match.
Don’t go viral
Given the complex nature of communication, it is hardly surprising that mistakes are made. But with a little understanding of what is involved in getting a message across successfully, the chances of accidentally ‘going viral’ at your expense are minimised.
More importantly, understanding and applying the different elements of positive communication helps to ensure professionalism and respect are maintained and, ultimately, things get done.