Thursday, February 5, 2009

Why are you writing, anyway? Part 2

Let's talk about purpose some more.

As we said in the last post, when you decide to communicate, to seek a shared understanding, you choose from 1) transactional, 2) expressive, or 3) poetic forms of communication.

We use transactional communication, almost exclusively, in business. This means we set out to a) inform, b) persuade, c) query, or d) collaborate.

In any event, when you choose one of these forms of communication, you are making a decision about control and participation. For example, if you decide to inform an audience, you have also decided not to engage in dialogue with them. In so doing, you control the message and you allow little, to no, involvement. Policies and procedures are usually communicated in this fashion. For instance, "The wearing of halter tops will no longer be permitted on casual Fridays at Jackie's Auto Repair Shop. Halter tops are cool, but just not appropriate in an auto repair shop."

When you send this kind of one-way message, you are informing, saying, in effect, "Sorry, folks. No more halter tops, no discussion accepted." On the other hand, when you set out to persuade, you open the communication for a little involvement by the audience and, in the process, give away a little control. For instance, "We must discontinue to use of halter tops at Jackie's Auto Repair because we have had several customers complain of distraction. We can keep our customers happy and all make more money if you agree to wear long sleeved shirts." In this message you are involving the audience by addressing their wants and needs (more $$).

You will notice that as you give up control of the communication, you invite more involvement from the audience. This is especially true when you intend to query your audience. For instance, you may send a message like this: "I have had several customers from Jackie's Auto Repair say that they are distracted by the halter tops our mechanics are wearing on Fridays. I'm OK with halter tops but I need to know what you are thinking about this. Get back to me as soon as you can. Thanks!"

Lastly, you may decide to involve everyone in a discussion of an issue or idea. If so, you have chosen the collaboration path where you act as facilitator. You give up all control by allowing total participation by the audience. In this scenario your message might read, "Halter tops have become a hot topic. Let's get together over lunch in the engine room tomorrow morning to talk about whether or not we should be wearing them. I'll provide the coffee; you provide the opinions."

As you see, when you decide to communicate, you face two huge questions: 1) What is my purpose? and 2) Who is my audience? These questions must be addressed simultaneously. You must understand your purpose but you must also have a deep understanding of the audience's wants, needs, understanding, and so forth. After you have clarified those questions to the best of your ability, you must decide how much control you will give away, if any, and how involved you want the audience to be. Remember: the more you want to control the message, the less you will involve the audience, and vice versa.

I don't know about you, but when it comes to halter tops I have plenty of opinions!

No comments:

Post a Comment