TEN Tips for Communicating in Uncertainty

In times of uncertainty, things like change, conflict, setting expectations, role clarity or any number of challenges leaders of teams might face are top of mind. Yet, embedded in each of these challenges is our struggle to communicate in ways that connect to our “audience” so they “get it” and can respond quickly. We could tackle this problem in many ways, but again and again one challenge I see is when a team of people say “there is a communication problem here” they each mean something different.

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

~George Bernard Shaw, playwright

Think of a time when you have been frustrated with communication, what was frustrating? Was it … 

  • The delay in getting the information you needed to take action
  • The content was unclear and you were unsure what to do with it
  • The message was not what you expected for the situation
  • The delivery was too direct, almost abrasive or at the other extreme it was indirect and too “fluffy”
  • Who needs to know wasn’t clear and some people got left out

One of the reasons that people define good communication differently is that we each have different communication preferences based on our personality, personal experience, and the skills we have learned. 

I just finished a training series that focused on navigating four different communication styles based on our personality preferences. To learn a little more about these styles you can download an assessment you can take along with a corresponding tip sheet. Learn quick tips you would offer to others that address communication frustrations >> especially in the face of uncertainty. Here are a few to get you started.

  1. Write out what you want to say — edit for clarity with your audience in mind and then communicate this to the intended audience.
  2. Offer genuine, positive feedback, frequently!
  3. Be slow to take things personally >> ask some clarifying questions
  4. Listen without dismissing ideas
  5. Follow up on observed feelings and reactions noted during your communication
  6. Recognize when you ramble or have lost your audience and seek to be more succinct and intentional in the future
  7. Resist the urge to point out the impractical when brainstorming with others
  8. Speak the language of “steps” — give information chronologically
  9. Use word pictures or analogies to nuance a communication point
  10. Acknowledge and include other perspectives 

The trick is to know which communication strategy to use in a given situation. Certainly it wouldn’t make sense to do all of these every time. Being aware of the communication needs of your audience that influence receptivity to discern which approach in communication will have the greatest “get it” factor. 

The Challenge!

Communicating in our own natural style is what comes easy. However, we often need to make adjustments and incorporate elements that will help our audience get what they will need.  To gain experience in this approach: 

  1. Select a key relationship for you right now. Write down the communication challenge or opportunity that you would like to address.
  2. Download and complete the communication assessment and tip sheet HERE.
  3. Write down what you think your communication style might be >> write what their communication style might be.
  4. Check out the communication strategies in the tip sheet you downloaded >> what is one thing you can try to explicitly communicate in their language?

Give it a try >> comment below what communication tactics you considered trying and what worked or didn’t work about it! Let’s keep building our list.

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Annie Perdue Olson

Annie is founder of Leading Better Together, guiding leaders through the relationship and people challenges that sidetrack ministry. With 20+ years of experience in nonprofit management and pastoral ministry she equips people and teams to work better together. She holds a Master of Arts in Human Resources and Change Leadership from St. Thomas University and received her coaching certification from the Center of Coaching Excellence.

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