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3.6: Tips for Success

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    • RANK—-don’t be afraid of it. Differences in military rank can be a real barrier to communication. Too many of us become tongue-tied when communicating with those senior in rank and cursory or impatient with those who are junior in rank. We must constantly remind ourselves we are all communicative equals and should strive to be candid, direct and respectful with everyone.
    • JARGON - tailor to your audience. Don’t overestimate the knowledge and/or expertise of your readers, but don’t talk down to them either. Be careful with excessive use of career-field specific jargon and acronyms. Yes, they are second nature to most of us in the military, but you can lose your audience with unfamiliar terminology.
    • Be INCLUSIVE – remember our diverse force. Sometimes we inadvertently exclude members of our audience by falling into communication traps involving references to race, religion, ethnicity or sex. Remember this concept when designing your visual support. Your visual aids should show a range of people who represent our Air Force. Avoid traditional stereotyping of jobs based on sex or race. Inclusiveness also applies to humor. Humor is not universal and joke telling is the biggest area where otherwise sensitive people unknowingly get themselves into trouble. Knowing your audience and adhering to good taste and sensitivity will keep you in check.
    • TONE - more than what you say, it is how you say it. Closely tied to the purpose of your communication is the tone you take with your audience. Speakers have gestures, voice and movements to help them communicate. Writers only have words on paper. How many times have you seen colleagues get bent out of shape over a misunderstood email? Why? Because the nonverbal signals available during face-to-face communication are absent. Recognize this disadvantage in written communication and pay close attention to it. Words that carry uncomplimentary insinuations (ignorant, opinionated) make negative suggestions (failure, impossible) or call up unpleasant thoughts (liable, unsuccessful) can potentially defeat your purpose.
    • COURTESY - be polite (please!). The first rule of writing is to be polite. Forego anger, criticism and sarcasm-strive to be reasonable and persuasive. Try not to deliberately embarrass someone if it can be avoided with a more tactful choice of words. Rudeness is a weak person’s imitation of strength.
    • Make it PERSONAL - but it’s not all about you! When appropriate, use pronouns to create instant rapport, show concern and keep your reader involved. Using pronouns also keeps your writing from being monotonous, dry and abstract. The pronouns you’ll probably use the most are you, yours, we, us and our. Use I, me, and my sparingly. One rule of business writing is "put your audience first," so when possible, avoid using \(I\) as the first word of an opening sentence and avoid starting two sentences in a row with we or \(I\) unless you’re trying to hammer home a point. These guidelines will help you to avoid sounding self-centered and repetitive.
    • FORMAL ("To be, or not to be") versus INFORMAL ("hey dude"). Different communication situations require different levels of formality. The informal tone is more like a conversation between you and your reader and it is characterized by clear, direct, active language. In today’s Air Force, most of your writing will be informal, though ceremonies and awards may require more elaborate (formal) language. Whether your tone is formal or informal, you still need to follow the accepted rules of grammar. In any case, the best advice is to keep your writing clear, concise and simple. See chapter 7 for more details.
    • Be POSITIVE. To cultivate a positive tone, give praise where praise is due; acknowledge acceptance before focusing on additional improvements; and express criticism in the form of helpful questions, suggestions, requests, recommendations, or clear directives rather than accusations. When having to give bad news, lead with a neutral comment before jumping in with the bad news. Save the positive for the closing by offering alternatives, etc. Stay away from using clichés, restating the refusal, hiding bad news in a fog of wordiness and inappropriate apologizing. Your audience always appreciates sincerity and honesty. To get you started thinking "positive," listen for the tone of the following sentences:
      • Commanders will recommend only qualified persons for training. [Constructive]
      • Commanders may not recommend for training any person who is not qualified. [Destructive]

    The following list provides additional tone comparisons to help you see the tone you may be setting in your communication. This list is not absolute, but it does show how changing just one word can change the tone of a communication, oral or written, and thereby lead to a different conversation characterized by cooperation rather than conflict.

    Table \(3.6.1\): Constructive versus Destructive Tone

    Positive, Constructive Tone Negative, Destructive Tone
    • reception area
    • waiting room
    • established policy
    • old policy
    • change of schedule
    • postponement
    • confirm meeting
    • reminder
    • competition is keen
    • opportunity is limited
    • start writing well
    • stop writing badly
    • use the big hoist
    • don't use the small hoit
    • the cup is half full
    • the cup is half empty

    SUMMARY: This chapter covered the key concepts of analyzing your purpose and audiencethe first step towards developing effective communication. Getting clear on your purpose early in the process helps you focus your preparation. Taking the time to understand your audience will help you tailor your message to their knowledge, interests and motives. Once you’ve determined your purpose, nailed down your purpose statement and carefully analyzed your audience, you need to do some homework on your topic ... that’s why it’s called research.

    This page titled 3.6: Tips for Success is shared under a not declared license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by US Air Force (US Department of Defense) .

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