Someone asks you if you heard what happen to one of your close friends. As you listen, you wonder, "How come I didn't know about this?" Think about how this lack of communication made you feel at that moment.
Why do you think this happened? At least one of the emotions generated by the conversation is that of surprise–being confronted with information you thought you should have known (particularly before the person who was telling you), but for some reason, you didn't.
Poor communication, or a lack of communication altogether, can make a person feel alienated or isolated. But there's a simple phrase you can adopt that can help you communicate more inclusively. That phrase is...
As I practiced using this phrase in my career as a church communications director, it caused me to ask myself four essential questions:
Who needs to know?
"No surprises" will cause you to think of others. When you informed about something in your church role, ask yourself, "Who else should know about this?" This isn't a suggestion to leak info or to be a gossip. But sometimes, when we share bits of info internally, we often forget the others who would benefit from this information.
An example is when church staff members share a testimonial about something God is doing in someone's life. Often times, stories like this stay inside when the church family or beyond could benefit from the exciting news.
When should they know?
Eliminate the element of surprise by considering timing. Have you ever received a post card in the mail announcing an early-bird registration that ends in two days? Yeah, surprise! By asking yourself this question, you will avoid the appearance of withholding information from your audience.
Poor communication, or a lack of communication altogether, can make a person feel alienated or isolated.
Who should tell them?
Who delivers the message can be a big deal. What element of surprise could you avoid by asking this question? Sometimes, people appreciate the notification, but they are confused by who the notice came from.
What should they know?
Avoiding the element of surprise doesn't always require all of the information. Particularly with sensitive information, sharing enough to help individuals feel included doesn't mean you have to share everything you know about the situation.
To be inclusive in your communication, avoid the element of surprise by defining who needs to know; when they should know; who should tell them, and what they should know.
Don Wambolt has over 25 years' experience in leading church communications. More