Project Communications: Writing with Empathy

Several recent communication issues with some clients have surfaced that have caused me to think about the common link between them. What I have found is that written communications take place with more focus on communicating what the writer wants to say, rather than being empathetic to how the intended reader will interpret the message.

A classic HBR article from the 1950s studied what makes a great “salesman” (remember, it was the 50s). One of the key traits that made one successful in sales was empathy. Under the assumption that we are all involved in sales, since we are all involved in serving clients either directly or indirectly, we are all in need of instilling more empathy in our communications.

A well-crafted letter, email or even a table, starts with anticipating how the intended reader will interpret the information and how that information can be of the utmost value to him or her. The writer needs to anticipate how well the message positions him or her if picked up by someone not engaged in the day-to-day activity that is the subject of the message.

Being empathetic is walking in the other person’s shoes. How busy are they? Do they read emails throughout the day, or just at the end of the day? Are they overwhelmed with information? Do they prefer details?

In the end, artful communication is the process by which one communicates the most effective message to an intended recipient, in a way that the recipient understands not only the content of the message, but also the intent of the message. To do this, the writer needs to anticipate how the message will be best presented. A colleague of mine, who is an excellent writer and communicator, will often praise someone for a well-crafted communication by saying “nicely presented”.

There is always room to improve in this art form. It requires an open ear, open eyes and the study of characteristics of the target for the communication. Communication is always prepared for more than just the writer. Just remember to put as much time into interpreting the way the recipient will receive it as you put into creating it.

One of the fun parts of writing this blog is thinking who specifically I am writing it for. Many times, there are a few key people who inspire the topic and motivate me to develop it further for their consideration.

Do you know who you are?

“Man’s inability to communicate is a result of his failure to listen effectively.”

Carl Rogers

“To effectively communicate, we must realize that we are all different in the way we perceive the world and use this understanding as a guide to our communication with others.”

Tony Robbins

Want more? Click the links below for additional posts on communication, empathy, perception and listening. 

How Perception Impacts Project Communications

Project Team Communication: How to Optimize Project Success

An Empathetic Ear: How Listening Impacts Project and Customer Success