10 ways to help build safety into your communications

It’s May. Spring flowers are blooming, grass is growing and it’s Building Safety Month as designated by the International Code Council. It's the time of year when construction kicks into high gear. In May, ICC encourages those involved in construction to pay extra attention to promoting safe working environments and building practices.

May is also a good time for PR pros to ask ourselves if we’re creating an environment that makes it safe to communicate as we construct and execute on our communications plans.

What are some ways to help create and maintain a safe, open, communications environment? Here are ten ideas to get the conversation started.

  1. Actively listen. Listen to understand the other person’s point of view. Listen with your ears and listen with your eyes. Observe the other person’s body language, or that of the audience you are speaking to. Are they listening to you? Are they leaning in, nodding or mimicking your body language or paraphrasing what you have to say? All are generally positive signs. Or, are they turning away or exhibiting closed body language with crossed arms, head down, or attention focused on something other than you and your message?

  2. Be curious. Ask questions. When you listen and respect what another has to say, it helps build trust and respect. Listen before you instantly react to what another to say, especially if it’s a position with which you may not necessarily agree. Seek to understand where the other person is coming from in their viewpoint. Use questions to help clarify, like “Can you help me understand why you believe that, say that or feel that way?” Or try phrases like, “help me understand why this is so important to you?”

  3. Be genuinely interested in others. Welcome conversation. To project a friendly tone, smile with your eyes and your voice. Create a welcoming atmosphere. Acknowledge the presence of others with eye contact and an appropriate greeting, whether you are speaking in person, by an online meeting, or phone call.

  4. Respect the individual, even if you disagree with his/her viewpoint. Even if you disagree with another person’s viewpoint, it’s still important to treat them with respect. Avoid attacking an individual verbally or in writing, even if you disagree with their viewpoint. You can disagree with their position, but as you do, don’t make it personal.

  5. Be open to new ideas without maintaining an “It’s my way or the highway” approach. Communications often involves the art of negotiations in building and maintaining relationships with others. Keep and open mind and communicate a can-do attitude, rather than always stating things from a negative standpoint of what can’t be done, won’t be possible, etc. For example, we can look into that and get back to you, rather than we don’t have time to consider that.

  6. Avoid placing blame or passing judgment. You and others can’t go back on actions already taken or words spoken. You can move forward. Rather than saying you should have done something, place the focus on asking the person how he or she might be approach this in the future. What worked? What didn’t and why? What would you do differently the next time? How might that improve results? Place the focus on what can be done differently in the future to achieve a given outcome.

  7. Find common ground. Agree where you can agree to help build a bridge with others. If communication has been strained or has derailed, take baby steps if needed to continue to build your understanding, respect for one another and your ultimate trust of each other.

  8. Be sincere. When you’re trying to build trust and respect in communications, be genuine. Spare the sarcasm. Choose your words and your tone carefully to avoid miscommunicating. If you don’t mean it or don’t believe it, don’t say it in the first place, rather than just going through the motions.

  9. Actions speak louder than words. Give more than lip service. Back up your words with your actions. If you say you’re going to do something, do it. If you fail to live up to your word, you’re not only letting others down, you’re letting yourself down, too, because others will lose respect for you.

  10. Build trust by keeping your word. Tell the truth. Be honest. Do the right thing. Do what you agreed to do. Do what’s ethical from a PR professional standpoint. For more tips, visit prsa.org/ethics.

Submitted by Kathy Krafka-Harkema, APR, Ethics Chair

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