3 Times We Need to PLAN our Communication

It’s that time of year when advisors, mentors and job hunters all are getting prepared for the big launch. Either their students are moving on, their interns are lining up their interest in next steps or job seekers are priming for the open market of recruiters. It’s also the time I get called on to assist with the polish. Effectively, bring to the interested (students, interns and other job seekers) my take on how to speak well.

Communication is easy for most of us, most of our lives. Yet there are key times like the ones up above that make us push the pause button so what we say has a bit more finesse.

These 3 times it behooves us to plan our words:

  1. When we think our listeners will disagree
  2. When our negative emotions are engaged
  3. When risk is high

We think they will disagree

Young adults commonly enter conversations with older folks expecting them to doubt or question their young adult ideas. Similarly, those of opposite gender approach problems thinking they will get resistance from their listener. When managers are younger than their direct reports or of a different ethnicity, they feel anxious.

In each of the above circumstances and those similar, we commonly err on the side of being narrow-minded when we fail to plan how to speak. We anticipate the worst and often either avoid or screw up our communication. We use language that gives away our assumption, we avoid taking the time to connect and set ourselves up for failure.

Our negative emotions engage

Whether or not the above is the reason behind our negative emotions, having negative thinking closes off the potential for rapport. Be it fear, anger, lack of understanding or unhealthy disagreement, when we allow ourselves to dwell on negative emotions we restrict effective communication. Instead, if we shift from the feeling side to the thinking side of our brain, (responding with “tell me more about that” instead of “Why not?”) we are then able to be objective and express ourselves more clearly to those with us. Additionally, we keep an even tone and breathe better. This calms us and improves our listening, thinking and responding.

Risk is high

Whether we are 10 seconds away from entering an interview, speaking from a podium or addressing a prospective client or other anxiety-ridden moments, we fear not measuring up. Maybe past failure to perform consumes our mind, or authority figures quick to point out our faults cloud the voice in our head. The more at stake, the higher the pressure for us.


There are ways to plan, to mentally and emotionally prepare and to practice speaking fluidly and feeling good about our results, in advance of the above 3 occasions.

It starts with reflecting on a few key things:

1. How do you want to come across?

2. What do you know about the focus?

3. What impact do you hope to make?

Question one helps you determine your emotional behavior during times you could be anxious. Plan for it in advance and then let the behavior match. For instance. Do you want to come across with poise? Then relax. Breathe. The energy you feel will focus you on behaving just as you wish.

Question two helps you with mental clarity. Once you capture your emotional tone you will then be able to think and respond with focus on the matter at hand. If you are asked a question outside the realm of your understanding, bring the conversation back into what’s familiar to you with the statement, “Here’s what I know.”

Question three addresses your overall intent of relating either by educating, agreeing or even persuading. Notice the intent of pushing isn’t an option. Stick with these three and then relax into it.

With focus on gaining calmness, alertness and relationship, you will communicate well. And it’s because you have made it your plan.



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On March 31st, 2014, posted in: alertness, anxiety, calm, clarity, communication skills by