Guest Post by Dianna Booher
Introverts often prefer communicating through writing. Sometimes leaders must take a position or summarize a verbal presentation over email. When this is bad news, it is not easy. But author Dianna Booher has written a book all about that: Faster Fewer Better Emails. In this guest post Dianna provides ways to communicate your message when it isn’t an easy one to convey.
Acknowledge the Facts
If the economy is free-falling, say so. If sales are sinking, say so. If the team is performing poorly, share your numbers. If your organization looks lousy beside the competition, come clean about the market feedback.
Nothing opens people’s minds and raises their estimation of your credibility like admitting the truth—and nothing decreases your credibility like ignoring the obvious or blaming, demonizing, or scapegoating others. You understand how pathetic that makes politicians look if you’ve ever heard them rationalize election results after a dramatic loss or listened to CEOs try to explain away poor earnings after failure to achieve their goals.
Small people shun responsibility. However, strong people shoulder it.
Stop Sugarcoating the Unknown and Unknowable
“Things will work—give it time!” “Don’t worry. Everything’s going to be fine.” “It’ll all work itself out. It always does.” Such are the assurances parents give their kids. You expect them and even appreciate them—at age thirteen. But to an adult hearing such platitudes from bosses, colleagues, or friends who could not possibly know the future and how a situation will actually turn out, these remarks sound empty, if not insulting to your intelligence.
That’s not to say you can’t offer comforting words. You can and should. But to be helpful and consoling, those words should be the right words. Aim to get past the clichés and all-will-be-well platitudes to meaningful comments that encourage and give direction.
Focus on Options for the Future
In a negative situation, strong introverted leaders focus others on positive alternatives and actions with the power of their words. So, if you’re communicating about a tanking economy, the alternative may be to encourage listeners to change investment strategies for their 401K funds. If you’re communicating to comfort employees after personal property destruction because of a weather-related disaster, you could encourage them to consider rebuilding in another area. If you’re announcing a layoff––in addition to communicating compassion––you might focus on the option of new training for updated skills or offer contacts for their job search.
Structure the Message Appropriately
So, for either an email or conversation, how can you organize your bad-news message?
- Start on either a positive or neutral note.
- Elaborate on the current situation or your criteria/reasoning for making the negative decision.
- State the bad news (as positively as possible).
- Offer an alternative to meet the person’s goals, when possible.
- End with a goodwill statement focused on the future.
To increase your credibility in a bad-news situation, ditch a down-in-the-mouth demeanor. As an introverted leader, give helpful straight talk about the substantive issue and your words will be heard.
Dianna Booher’s latest books include Faster, Fewer, Better Emails, Communicate Like a Leader, What MORE Can I Say?, and Creating Personal Presence. She’s the bestselling author of 48 books, published in 61 foreign editions. Dianna helps organizations communicate clearly and leaders to expand their influence by a strong executive presence. National Media such as Good Morning America, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, and Forbes, have featured her work on communication. www.BooherResearch.com @DiannaBooher