When you think about the last month at work, how many times would you say that you experienced an intent-impact gap? As a refresher, an intent-impact gap occurs when a person intends for a message to land in one way and their audience takes away a different interpretation.
It can come to life in a number of situations at work. Consider when you’ve seen:
- An explanatory email that receives a reply with many questions (including some that were already addressed in the original message)
- A presentation that falls flat
- A change to policy that doesn’t take hold
- A colleague feeling hurt after constructive feedback was shared
Particularly in virtual environments where we rely on email and video calls, it’s hard to read body language and facial expressions, resulting in the potential for more miscues. While it’s common for communication gaps to occur, they can take a toll on you, your colleagues as well as your efficiency, productivity and working relationships.
Three Tips to Become a Better Communicator
To improve your delivery and match your intent with your impact, I recommend understanding three things:
- Your Audience
- The Emergenetics® Attributes
Self-awareness is the starting point for most areas of professional development, and it’s no different with improving communication skills. When you understand your tendencies, you can recognize what points you instinctively emphasize, your default modes of presenting information, your strengths as well as areas you may overlook.
If you have an Emergenetics Profile, take time to explore your Narrative Report, which is available to you on Emergenetics+, to discover how your Thinking and Behavioral preferences may show up in your natural communication style. To get additional insights, you can also ask for input from a trusted team member or connect with a peer or professional mentor.
Understand Your Audience
While self-awareness is important, that is only half of the equation. By recognizing the interests of your audience and understanding how they prefer to receive information, you will be better equipped to effectively shape your message. Taking time to plan and adapt your approach to meet the recipient’s needs also demonstrates your care and respect for them.
If your colleagues have their Emergenetics Profiles, connect on the Emergenetics+ mobile app and use our customized tips to match rapport. If you are not using Emergenetics, there are other ways you can get to know your audience by reflecting on the needs of their job function, identifying successful practices that you’ve used in the past or simply asking others how they prefer to receive information.
Understand the Emergenetics Attributes
While there are many communication methodologies available just one Google search away, Emergenetics provides an easy-to-use framework built on our seven universally-applicable Attributes. Because every person has preferences for the different Emergenetics Attributes, you can use the tips below to ensure your message speaks to the interests of your audience.
If you know the Emergenetics preferences of whomever you are connecting with, focus on the recommendations that speak directly to those individuals. If you aren’t sure which Attributes speak to their preferences or you are addressing a large group, consider the Attributes holistically.
The Analytical Attribute appreciates it when individuals get to the point quickly. Make sure you explain the reasoning behind your message. It can also be helpful to cite data and facts from credible sources to support your point.
In writing, include bullet points, text treatments and headers to draw attention to high-level, important information.
Those with a Structural preference tend to enjoy details, so they likely won’t mind a lengthier email as long as it stays focused on the topic at hand. This Attribute often wants to know specific action steps following your communication, including the timeline.
When drafting a written message, consider providing a step-by-step or linear process to the actions that need to be taken.
The Social Attribute often prioritizes people, so when you share information, take care to explain any impacts to stakeholders. Feelings are as empirical as data for this Attribute, so be mindful that your tone demonstrates sincerity.
In written messages, starting with a friendly greeting can help set a positive tone.
Those with a Conceptual preference tend to be future oriented. If you can paint the picture of your vision as well as identify opportunities to try something new, you will be more inclined to engage this Attribute.
Try including imagery, iconography or emojis in written communication to speak to the visual nature of this preference.
Expressiveness describes how individuals prefer to process information they receive. Those in the first-third often appreciate having time to give the subject matter some thought, while those in the third-third typically like to talk things out. Your colleagues in the second-third will flex to each side depending on the message being shared.
To support staff in the first-third:
- Provide information in advance of a conversation whenever possible
- Offer time for internal reflection before asking for input
To support employees in the third-third:
- Offer opportunities for others to share instant feedback
- Acknowledge that the discussion is a starting point
Assertiveness describes the style and pace with which individuals advance their thoughts, feelings and beliefs. When it comes to communication, some team members may prefer a direct approach, some may prefer a gentle style and others will flex to either side of the spectrum based on the situation.
To accommodate first-third preferences:
- Invite questions to ensure buy in from others
- Identify milestones to support pacing
To accommodate third-third preferences:
- Engage in constructive discussion
- Be direct when expressing your opinion
When it comes to communication, Flexibility speaks to our potential reaction when informed of a change. Those in the first-third appreciate opportunities to stay the course, those in the third-third like to make adjustments even after decisions are made and those in the second-third are likely to flex depending on what the change is.
To support first-third preferences:
- Explain the why behind any message you deliver
- Allow time for colleagues to process a change
To support third-third preferences:
- Offer options when possible
- Share where there is still room to adjust the course
The next time you need to deliver an important communication, I encourage you to use the tips from the Attributes as an informal checklist. Make sure that you include at least one element that speaks to the needs of each preference. In doing so, you can honor your audience and proactively minimize intent-impact gaps.
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