This is a guest post from one of my pals, master communicator Marty Clarke, author of Communication Land Mines, 18 Communication Catastrophes and How to Avoid Them.
Marty’s Rules for
Communicating in high-stress situations
It’s not if you have to communicate while in a high-stress situation, it’s how well you do it when it happens. There are costly mistakes to be made! Relationships can be damaged, and your own credibility can take a serious hit.
Enough preamble! Let’s get down to it:
Listen, when the heat is on and you are in a highly emotional state, you are going to want to rip off a nice flaming email and straighten someone out. Or better yet, a whole department of people. My advice is to go ahead and write it, but then let one night pass before you hit send. Yes! One night shall pass! And then, when you come into work the next day, and you read what you wrote, you may very well thank your lucky stars that you heeded my advice. Because, what yesterday sounded like a well-thought out memo on how others might do their jobs better, may in the cold light of a new day sound like the ravings of a petulant child.
Rule #2: Do NOT use your e-mail program to compose your invective.
Holy Conniption Fit! Think about it, how easily could a potentially damaging email get sent by accident? Uh-oh. One wrong click, one fat finger and it is entirely possible that you will send something you really did NOT want to send. So my advice is to still write it out, but use Word, write it in a notebook, spray paint it on a subway car. Do what you have to do but do NOT use your email program as your composition platform.
Rule #3: Think! Exactly what are you trying to accomplish?
Stop. Take your hands off the keyboard. And muse upon the question “What am I trying to accomplish?” If the answer is “To make sure that Jasper in Accounts Payable knows what a moron he is” then maybe you should stop the bus and decompress. [Read more on determining your purpose here]
Rule #4: Spellcheck is your enemy!
This is unfair, but too bad: People are going to notice your spelling errors and make fun of you for them. If you’re trying to make a point, you really undermine your own credibility with a typo. But what about spellcheck? Isn’t that the safety net? That answer is NO!! Spellcheck is your enemy because it’s a big liar. If you send something and there are no red squiggly lines under any of the words, do not assume it says what you want it to say. There are two planets: Spellcheck and proofread. You must live on Planet Proofread. [Click here for more tips on checking your work]
Rule #5: Less is more!
When you are all fired up over a topic, typically you have a lot to say about said topic. That’s fine, baby love. Use that big brain. Do not, however, use email to write a term paper on the topic. Don’t think you are immune to this. Strong is the Dark Side. None of us is immune to the knee-jerk response to open the valve on the fire hydrant of opinions we all have in our brains. Be circumspect. Think critically and pick out only the most trenchant elements that will make your point. Less is more, and it always will be. [Check out these quick tips for writing short]
Marty Clarke is a professional speaker, trainer, and consultant based in Raleigh, North Carolina, specializing in hilarious and motivational talks and keynote speeches, trainings and books. He also is one of the highest energy and funniest people I know.