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2016: The Year of the Supercommunicator
(or How to be Sandwich Cheese)

by Gillian Woroniuk ASEBP | December 31 2015 | 5 Comments

You made it to the end of 2015—congratulations one and all! I had planned to write something about resolutions and fresh starts and other topical topics but, truthfully, I can really only write confidently about communicating (and whole slew of other utterly random things not relevant here—I’m a stellar Trivial Pursuit partner).

Communication is a bit of a strange animal (if you’re rocking out to the Gowan song that’s playing in your head right now—I salute you). The sending and receiving of messages comes with far more exceptions than absolutes. Your mood, previous experiences, age, gender, culture, language, health are just some of the factors that determine how you’ll send and receive a message on any given day.

Given this, is it a waste of time to even try to transform your slightly grumpy skillz into mad ones?

From what I’ve seen, being a killer communicator has significant advantages in just about every aspect of life—it’s the cheesy goodness in the sandwich that keeps us snug in our feeling of togetherness. That said, we can’t all expect to wake up being great orators just because we’ve got something to say. What we can do is to try our very best to hear and be heard—to be the cheese in that sandwich.

The pressure is on people! I jest of course, but here are a few (hopefully obvious) tips to keep top of mind when you’re thinking about communicating and how it might affect the uptake on your wellness initiatives. These have served me well in my career and I hope that they resonate with you as well.

  1. Build relationships and trust. How do you build a relationship with someone or earn their trust? The simple answer is by being transparent in all your interactions. Ask yourself, “Am I doing what I promised I was going to do?” This is a great place to start (and then keep asking yourself the same question again and again until you begin to question your sanity).
  2. Know your audience. How do they like to receive information and connect? Where do they communicate with each other and for what purpose? What are their pressure points? Is your communication going to help them? Totally lost? Not to worry—just ask the questions you need answers for and they’re sure to tell you. This is super important and will go a long way to bolster those trusting relationships you’ve built with your audience.
  3. Listen. This is a tough one for many of us. Listening comes with patience, empathy, attention to detail, visual cues among many others. But hope is not lost my friends! People like to be heard. Be quiet, take the time you need to understand, ask qualifying questions, capture and recall what you’ve heard and be certain you’re all on the same page—you’ll be better for it (and so will whatever you’re trying to communicate)!
  4. Empathize. It’s important to remember that (just like you!) your audience have a lot going on outside of this simple interaction you’re having that will impact how they receive and send out information. The best you can do is to listen with empathy to them and their concerns. I follow this awesome blogger, Brandon Stanton, on his photo blog Humans of New York. His photographs and stories are a brilliant reminder that each of us has a unique and often difficult story to tell. The lesson here: assume nothing about your audience.
  5. Ask for input. Are there naysayers in your group? Fantastic! Winning with this crowd will let you know that you’ve been SUPER successful. That you actually achieved what you were trying to communicate—huzzah! Identify those who might be the most resistant to your communication and solicit their honest input. It might be a little scary (terrifying) to open the gauntlet, but do your best to put on your Zen hat and really hear them—being prepared to address their concerns at an early stage will leave you in good stead down the road.
  6. Keep it simple and real. You’re competing with countless others who also think that their messages and stories are the MOST IMPORTANT MESSAGES ON THE PLANET. How can you be heard above the din? Work hard to keep your messages simple and authentic. Be honest, make it relevant to the audience you now know so well, inject humour where appropriate and continually ask yourself, “Is this something I’d read or care about?” That’s a question you want to be answering a resounding YES to time and time again.

So there you have it! It’s 2016 and you’re ready to communicate yourself silly. Or in my favourite doctor’s words (it’s Suess—but you knew that, right?!?):
And will you succeed?
Yes! You will, indeed!
(98 and ¾ percent guaranteed)
Kid, you'll move mountains.

And whether you prefer provolone, swiss, gouda or goat, the goal here is simple: JUST BE THE CHEESE.

Gillian Woroniuk

With countless years of communications experience under her belt, the self-titled “G” is ASEBP’s very own super communicator. While she will certainly forget your name and is unable to get across a bridge without a panic attack, Gillian’s the one you want when you need someone to round out your punk rock air guitar band.

. | December 31 2015 11:08 AM

Great post, Gillian! I love your tips - especially the listening one :)  It's great to hear from an expert communicator such as yourself, that those of us who are strong in observation and listening skills have a big part of play in ensuring communciations are effective.  

I would say that your list, while it certainly applies to individuals, can also apply to wellness teams or committees where each member brings different communication strengths to the table - perhaps a cheese buffet, so to speak. :) If we are able to capitalize on each team member's abilities and skills when it comes to communication needs, our target audiences can only benefit.  After all, who doesn't love cheese?

Gillian W. ASEBP | December 31 2015 12:12 PM

Thanks, Jessica (and now I've got cheese buffet on the brain)! While I've just skimmed the surface of all the different ways you can bolster your communication skills (not to mention how those skills actually translate into a successful initiative), I hope these fairly universal tips will be useful in a variety of interactions: be it a committee, work team, personal or family relationship. And whether to you that's a cheese sandwich, warm blanket or something completely different - successful communication just feels good. :)

Matthew M. Alberta Health Services - @albertahealthservices.ca | January 6 2016 4:26 PM

Thank you Gillian for relating communication to one of the all time best foods - cheese! I love the tips, and in my mind they are a lot like cheese too:

1) Build relationships and trust - like melted cheese in a sandwich, communication holds people together.

2) Know your audience - Like a fine wine matches cheese, make sure sure your message matches the audience. If you aren't careful, you could be left with a bad taste in your mouth.

3)Listen - like cheese, patience and time can make it stronger.

4) Empathize - Assume nothing about your audience. Like people, every cheese is unique and should be understood even if you might not like it.

5) Ask for input - don't be afraid to try something new or different. Whether it is cheese or a new perspective, you might just broaden your horizons.

6) Keep it simple and real - like cheese, sometimes messages are best to consume in their most simple and basic form.

Lorna M. Alberta Health Services - @albertahealthservices.ca | January 8 2016 12:24 PM

Well said everyone!

Shandy M. ASEBP | January 25 2016 1:53 PM

I recently read this article and it made me think of your excellent blog Gillian - and the thoughtful comments from the others. It reiterates the point that communication and customization are key to health and wellness programs - http://tinyurl.com/zag9sqq