2.3 The 5Cs Strategy

The effectiveness of our communication depends upon several factors. Use the following five strategies to create effective messages through any channel (text, email, phone, email, etc.) that people can relate to and understand.

1. Concise

People avoid reading long messages, so remember this rule: “The shorter the better.” Before writing your message, define its purpose, and then use the fewest number of words to communicate your message in a way that achieves your purpose.

Some Text messaging and instant messaging apps have built-in limitations that encourage shorter messages. However, emails have no such limits. Therefore, when emailing, we must have the self-discipline to communicate essential information without rambling.

For example, a professional  sent a long email to a collage and started it with, “I’m sorry I didn’t have time to make this shorter.”

Sometimes emails need extra length and detail if the topic is complex or sensitive. However, for the vast majority of written correspondence, shorter is better. If large amounts of detailed information are needed, email that information as an attachment or a link to an online document.    

2. Complete

Provide all of the information that your audience needs to fulfill the purpose of the message. If you’re asking them to view a document, provide the link. If they must submit something before a meeting, the invitation should explain the submission requirements and where the document should be submitted. When composing your message, answer the questions that journalists ask when writing a news story: Who? What? When? Where? Why? How?  

Incomplete emails waste time and cause additional emailing, phone calls, or video conferences as people ask questions that should have been answered in the initial message. If needed, add attachments, links, and other pertinent information to your message, and then clearly identify their location.  

3. Courteous

Polite messages have a greater chance of avoiding conflict than messages that ignore the feelings of the audience. When composing a written message, we should read and reread the message to ensure that the wording is polite, respectful, and non-threatening. Whether you are the president of the company or its newest employee, the words “please” and “thank you” make your audience more receptive to your message. 

If communication deals with a topic that could stir up emotions or be misinterpreted, don’t rely on written communication. In such cases, we should use a video conference or phone call that allows the audience to hear our friendly, or at least calm, tone. Video allows others to see non-verbal cues that can diffuse tension. Therefore, for sensitive conversations, video is the ideal mode of communication.    

4. Constructive

As competent communicators, we speak well of others, build others up, and keep our conversations positive. Rather than joining the whiners and complainers, we use our communication skills to contribute to solutions. Rather than gossiping, we defend those who are absent. As we earn a reputation as a competent communicator who supports and encourages others, our reputation can help us advance to higher positions of responsibility. Beyond that…it’s just the right thing to do.     

5. Consistent

Work cultures land somewhere on the spectrum between formal and informal. Competent communicators align their communication style to match the culture of their organization. Some organizations encourage the sharing of personal information (hobbies, vacations, etc.), and others do not. Some company cultures use emojis, memes, or humor, and others do not. Some organizations may prefer certain channels of communication (email, instant messaging, etc.) over others. When we adapt our communication style to reflect our organization’s culture, we build rapport and demonstrate that we are a good fit for the team. 

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