The ABC of Efficient Communication

The ABC of Efficient Communication

A good rule for effective communication lies in the ability to create a message in an efficient way. Here we will see what efficient means in communication then work out a method to create value through messages.

Effectiveness and efficiency are not synonyms but they are connected. Effectiveness is the ability to achieve a goal, in communication is transferring the whole meaning through a message. Efficiency is to create the message with less resources: the best output using the least effort. By other hand, a complex message whereby object is overly clarified will be fully comprehensible, nevertheless many receivers could find such a message too heavy to assimilate. Time and effort to decode the message could seem futile if it requires too much of them. At the same time, the effort and time used to create a fully comprehensible, often redundant message, will have been vain, and no efficient. Such a message will be not efficient because it requires too many resources compared to its purpose. How can we understand which messages are redundant? How and why does the aim of clarity create the opposite effect?  When is a message redundant and when is it incisive?

The three pillars here illustrated serve to evaluate messages aimed to their purposes, on a specific environment. Those pillars are in some way antithetical. The ability to use each of them in a divergent manner and in the right quantity, enhances the communication efficiency. It means messages will be transmitted from sender to receiver spending limited resources furthermore hitting the communication goal much better. In a fast moving world, efficient communication allows to be more sexy, more attractive, easier to understand for counterparts, at last to transfer more worth. 

The three pillars are: Accuracy, Briefness and Clearness we should briefly call them ABC

Accuracy: is the message’s feature to embody all the information required in any needed detail which allows the receiver to understand completely its content. If this is missing, it couldn’t be found immediately, but the missing information will affect comprehension. If the purpose is to suggest the deployment of a specific action, an inaccurate message could affect a wrong or incorrect behaviour. 

Briefness: Because of its multiple definitions, the best meaning of briefness, I think, is like the opposite of excessiveness. Mainly, brief messages, can be decoded quickly.

Clearness: the complexity of the language, the words embodied, the structure of each statement and correct grammar affect the message understandability. When more than one meaning is possible clearness is never achieved.

A good message is the composition of these pillars in a mixture of these relates to its purpose, its goal and the communication environment. Different messages to different purposes, will have different mix.

An accurate message will have all necessary details and an explanation of cause-effect. It will relay all information about facts, then will explain completely what the counterpart is called to do. Accurate communication belong mainly to scientific environments and it is often so complex to grasp. A scientific paper which is inaccurate and lacks in reliability is completely untrustworthy.

A brief message is one which is quickly grasped. The little time required to get that message requires little effort to understand its purpose whether this to directly inform or to give straightforward operative instructions nevertheless not exhaustive. Advertising messages, slogans and Visions & Missions are normally such messages which are immediately comprehensible.

A clear message is easy to decode. Complex messages could be exiting to decode and can explain much better their issues but complexity is more common in social sciences or intellectual speculation. Endeavouring the audience in intellectual challenge is exiting for receivers who like challenging complexity. But complexity can also divert the attention away from the purpose, complexity sometimes becomes the lone meaning as well as simple debating become the last purpose. When complexity exceeds the receivers’ willingness to decode, receivers will quickly lack interest. Clearest messages are those people enjoy rapidly.

The mix of these three factors is the main feature of each communication. The goal is to clarifying how each factor implies the communication’s result allowing to improve its use. Use one factor to create more focused messages, or insisting on another one to enhance trust is, over all, the method to engage the counterpart. If you aren’t writing an electoral slogan, or a quantum mechanic’s paper or a child novel, you always need to balance all the three pillars!

In any of these six different styles we can feel coherency between purpose and modality: 

  • Theory of Relativity appears quite complete on its description straight to facts and causes. There are a lot of details and its complexity engage audience in decoding. 
  • Pablo Neruda’s style is very comprehensible to everyone even if you are not the addressee. Pablo’s rhetorical figures are so powerful that readers can immagine the whole picture. 
  • Less is More is direct and concise as a slogan. Quoted from different authors it shows how speaking less gets more results! 
  • G. W. Leibniz explains is philosophical theory using an accurate and brief style to condense contents in a conceptualisation. The decoding of this statement requires some effort because the complexity which engages those who love intellectual challenges.
  • Dacia Maraini, an Italian journalist, is always direct in her style which offers several details collected in a simple way, so that she shapes a clear picture in the reader’s mind.
  • Felice Cavallotti’s words don’t need any effort to be understood! The idea is clearly related to social values’ change during the last century (…and beyond, I mean).

There are millions of possible samples to show the three pillars’ features as well as the three double-mode categories. The cultural background allows everyone to feel a different perception of the three pillars. I think it makes no sense to decline a unique model of the last triple-mode category: the one where Accuracy, Briefness and Clearness were melted in a very awesome mix. It simply depends on the final purpose and the author’s feeling. 

The responsibility of building a message which is right for the receiver belongs to the transmitter. Knowing the receiver and creating a message just for him, makes the difference between “good communication” and one which does not engage the counterpart: communication which doesn’t match purposes nor goals, because it misses the mental map of the receiver. 

The ability to mix the best Accuracy, Briefness and Clearness, lies in efficient communication skills and affects the ability to be understood therefore shaping a better message. A creative approach allows you to unveil how to handle the three pillars better. 

No more failure in accuracy, avoiding the risk to appear foggy; no more failure on briefness, avoiding the risk of disengaging the counterpart; no more failure in clearness, avoiding the risk to make the receiver angry! The best balance of the three pillars makes communication so inspiring, so kind and so stimulating. When the receiver feels himself engaged in a meaning creation process he/she gets value through that communication.

A very good way to train ourselves in building better balance in written works, is to start altering one of your own papers, working on one single pillar at a time. First you can revise it, improving accuracy: add as much details as possible, proofs of evidence and quotations to support the content reliability. After that you can check how to clarify your paper, avoiding relative clauses and using smoother statements and simpler words. Clarifying does not means more words. Finally you can summarise your work: by writing several drafts you delete everything which is redundant. Less is more: you only need the main issue. Can you say it with a slogan? Do it!

This exercise allows you to use each pillar and its feature. Insisting on one of them depends on the communication purpose, the media and the value creation you want create with the audience. While speaking, clearness and briefness are a must, forget details which can affect the listener’s focus. Fuelling the curiosity of audience influences people to ask questions. Nurture positivity in the message’s charm, then commit your public through an emotional boost first, then by logic. Don’t forget: effectiveness in the communication process is mainly a matter of feeling!  

Notation

Raymond Queneau wrote “Exercises de Style”. Anyone who loves the OuLiPo’s style knows the founder of the Ouvroir de la Littérature Potentielle very well, the french movement characterised by its happy, irreverent, caustic novels. In his book Queneau shows the possibilities of a different message’s shape and, furthermore, the opportunity of varying the style on the same content. Queneau have played on the style alteration and communication experts, who have studied this interesting experiment, have enjoyed it. Queneau shows here several styles but does not analyse the efficiency on written works. Actually efficiency is not a literary matter, it’s mainly an economics parameter. If you get to challenge yourself on the amazing art of recounting histories by pen and paper, leave out efficiency, but don’t forget clearness please!

If your need is to be reliable and, aim to this purpose, using lots of items, you involve your enormous, prolific accuracy, in showing details, so that your lovely listener, or reader, or counterpart, as you like to call him, related to situations or circumstances or episodes, he can get a clear, full-inclusive picture, nevertheless the objective complexities which this awesome job carries, regarding all the important matters you care to transmit, not only in content, but also in your commitment to the cause… Then your exercise has to be summary! When you have cut your paper by axe three times, you will be closer to an assimilable written work.

When your deal is to be clear so that everyone can understand easily what you mean, avoiding hurt, enjoying the metaphor’s pictures as well as the happy mood you can instil by your novelistic style, creating empathy by your emotions transferred on your well shaped statements… Your exercise is to write a statistic article about violence and criminal offence trends in big cities.

Is your problem the time and wanna shrink it, hitting slogans, ‘cuz fastest is better? Your exercise has to be to create a children’s novel using not less than thousand words. Be clear, the children have to enjoy it!

At last when you have well shacked the elements and you finally like your paper, you have to cancel the file from any of your computers so that you must start again using only your own memory! When done, ask your best friend to suggest what he dislikes about your written work and ask your annoying neighbour to tell you what he likes! 

After all get it by laughing. For those who work on personal development, like me, it is much better to work smiling, but if you don’t smile, at least smoke with a filter, please!

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