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It’s a famous old curse: May you live in interesting times. Well, here we are. If whoever came up with that curse had been in business they might have added ‘and have to communicate clearly about them’. You’re likely to have some difficult conversations with your team at some point, whether it’s about the current pandemic or future interesting times. We’ve put together a guide to help you prep for those conversations.
How To Handle Sensitive Communications
You know what’s contagious? Well, yes, but also anxiety. Even when delivering the safest of messages, a visibly anxious presenter can make their audience antsy. Get your breathing, and your heart rate, into a calm zone. Here are some methods to try. Breathing really helps, which is why it’s so popular.
If tension is high, the audience will be filtering for the information that’s crucial to them, so your focus should be on their needs. Have their interests at heart and at the heart of your message. Show that you’ve considered how the situation will impact them personally as well as professionally. ‘I know many of you are concerned about…’ and ‘We know there’s an issue around … for many of you’. Don’t complain about your own situation, especially if you’re worried about having to sell the spare jetski.
In difficult times, people need clarity and open, calm communication. If a situation is still unfolding, be honest about what you do and don’t know. Make sure your research is sound and that it comes from reliable sources. Beware of echo-chambers and keep your critical faculties alert for misinformation. Don’t use half-truths or guesses just to sound reassuring. People respect a hard truth more than a soft fib, unless it’s about whether you like their new ‘amusing’ socks.
If there are steps the audience can take, give them a plan of action. If you’re rolling out your own plan, tell them what to expect. In an unfolding situation, tell them when to expect updates and how these will be delivered. Certainty and action are reassuring when things feel out of control, and having a schedule for future actions helps people relax in the interim. Who doesn’t like a nice relaxed interim?
Take care when it comes to sharing your personal views. Accusations of blame, vague future predictions, conspiracy theories, political diatribes: all are unnecessary, cause unrest and undermine your credibility. Maybe you really believe the 5G rollout is to blame for everything including your shitzu’s headaches, but save it for your blog.
The Good News Or The Bad News?
The good news is, there’s no point hiding bad news. Get the problem out in the open so it can be dealt with. As this HBR article points out, reputation is a long game. When you’re cagey and evasive you undermine trust across the organisation and beyond.
You might also miss the chance of solving the problem: ‘With accurate information, people can turn their attention and skills to the challenges of developing novel solutions to the newly visible problems.’ If we ignore bad news, times are only going to get more interesting. And that’s a curse.
If you haven’t already made a plan to handle the possible fallout from COVID-19, we have your back. Here’s a pandemic prep plan template for your business from Siouxsie Wiles. Here’s a link for effective virtual meetings. We can also run some of our 1-2-1 coaching sessions, including specific webinar and video sessions, via ZOOM, so if you do find yourself in isolation your time doesn’t have to go to waste.
Stay safe and look after each other.
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