You Don’t Own Your Message

You don't own your message
Joe Burroughs

Joe Burroughs

Many people are frustrated by uncertainty and complexity in their jobs. I use Agile principles to provide clear and simple strategies so that you can win at work!

Have you ever had this happen to you?

You have a presentation to deliver and you work hard to make your point. You build in visuals of the data like charts and graphs. You add examples and a strong solution statement. You even incorporate a business case showing the upside of implementing your proposal or idea. 

Then when it comes time for you to present, someone asks a seemingly unrelated question, and then the discussion goes off the rails. Your audience missed your point altogether! They assumed your presentation was similar or related to another topic, or worse they misunderstood your point completely and left the meeting thinking something completely different than what you intended.

You give up control the moment you let go of the words

Communication is the process of sending ideas, thoughts, & messages and having them received as intended. Unfortunately it is very common to have a miscommunication where you try and deliver a message only to have it misinterpreted or incorrectly associated with non related information. The tendency on the part of the sender is to blame the recipient for these types of misunderstandings. However, if you really want to get ahead in your organization you will see it as your responsibility to be crystal clear in all your messaging. 

Tips for Agile Teams Working Remotely

Tips for Agile Teams Working Remotely

Regain Morale • Establish Momentum • Increase Engagement

The audience owns the message

“Once your words have left your mouth, your email has been read, or your presentation has been viewed you are no longer in charge of the message. Your audience is. They can interpret it however they like. And their interpretation is correct… even if it isn’t.”

This may seem unfair or unreasonable, but think about it this way: what if a coworker tried to make a joke and said something incredibly offensive. Who gets to determine how the message impacted you? That’s right YOU do! 

The sender of the message gives up control of the reaction the moment they share the message in any form. This is especially true with email and modern forms of messaging methods. Even in face-to-face or live virtual meetings you do not get to control how your message is received. It has never been more important to spend time crafting your messages. Considering how they may be open to misinterpretation and revise to ensure clarity.

KISS: Keep It Super Simple

For your messages to stand a better chance of being received as intended you need to keep them super simple. It is harder to misinterpret short clear messages. So, keep your messages short and clear. Flowery language is your enemy. It is unlikely your organization gives out awards for poetic language or allegory so stop trying to be clever and start trying to be straightforward.

Tips for clear messages:

  • Use short sentences
  • Use simple action based verbs 
  • Avoid complex examples
  • Avoid emotional language or examples
  • Only repeat 2-3 key points or takeaways
  • Write as if your audience is 10 years old 
  • Do not assume your audience understands the purpose of your message
  • Avoid acronyms and jargon
  • Encourage your audience to “check in” or confirm their understanding at key points
  • Do not use 3 words when 2 will do
  • Use short memorable phrases for points you wish people to remember 
  • Repeat your 2-3 key points more than four times

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Your audience owns their interpretation

The next time you are crafting an important message remember that whatever the reader thinks you meant, is exactly what you meant to them. That they have the right to interpret your message as they see fit. Your only recourse is to do a great job of being clear up front. This avoids problems from the beginning and helps you come across more clearly in every communication you send. 

After all a clear communicator is a good communicator!


Joe Burroughs

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