The Power Of A Single Sentence

3 Ways To Encourage Engagement In Communication

With one sentence, you can either encourage people to engage and communicate with each other or totally shut it down.

Have you ever self-destructed a communication or been a recipient of a poorly delivered message? Perhaps you wanted a free-flowing exchange including open sharing of thoughts and ideas, yet something was said or done that created the opposite effect. Encouraging people to engage with one another can be a tricky thing to do.

Even when we’re conscious communicators and experienced in creating engagement amongst people, we can slip up. Over the holidays, I caused a communication shut-down with one simple misguided sentence. Here’s what happened:

My family and I had been looking forward to having a big holiday celebration for Christmas and in preparation, I sent out a group text to everyone asking if we should do an exchange of names for gifts. The responses came flowing back immediately. Everyone was excited and glad to be connecting with each other. We could absolutely feel the energy and engaged communication flowing back and forth. The pings of text messages and notifications going back and forth between each other lasted for several days, and everyone was looking forward to getting the next message with details.

A couple of days later, I sent out the follow-up message with details on the exchange assignments, however, this time I made a fatal flaw. In the message, I said “let’s not blow up our phones with all these messages” and suggested everyone connect separately off-line. It seemed like a good idea when I typed it; after all, who needed to be included in messages from Ashley to Landon as they connected acknowledging who was assigned to whom. But from the moment I hit the send key, something very different happened this time around. Instead of excitement and connection, there was radio silence. Everyone read the message and adhered to the “rules,” just as I asked – and it killed our shared communication. All of the juiciness, fun, and flow had disappeared and I felt like the Grinch who stole Christmas.

“With one sentence, the door to communication slammed shut.”

Although I tried to revive it, the damage was done. Now never fear, we still had a great time when we got together but through this experience, I was reminded of the importance and tenuousness of communication.

While this example and the impact was small, the lessons can apply to many situations. So what were the lessons? Here are three easy ways to encourage engagement and communication to flow.

1) Remember the reason.

Keep the real reason for your message top of mind. While this is crucial to formal and business communications, even a simple and informal communication has a specific purpose. In my example, the underlying reason for the text messages was to connect people and encourage them to engage with one another.

The more clear we are as to why we’re communicating, the higher the likelihood of actually delivering the message we want to deliver. My advice is to step back and take a broad view of what you actually want to happen.

2) Efficiency is not always the best outcome.

When people are interacting with each other and excited about something, efficiency may need to take a back seat. Recommending a process that feels limiting and rigid can act as a stiff-arm to allowing communication to move freely.

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

–George Bernard Shaw

Ask yourself if “streamlining” really matters in this exchange or is it taking away from communication actually happening.

3) Loosen the controls.

If you’re a control freak or simply accustomed to being in charge, that urge to regulate things may take over before you know it. There are plenty of times when tight guidance and oversight is needed, but it’s not so in every case. Circle back to your reason for the communication and see if this is one of those times that “control needs to be controlled.”

Whether your message is subtle or overt, remember that a simple sentence can be potent.


Carly Vivian
Carly Vivian
CARLY is an expert in leadership development and organizational change management (OCM). Her mission is to reinvent how people think about change, replacing fear and inertia with clarity of direction and forward momentum. Carly loves to work with leaders and help guide them and their teams through major transitions with agility, connection, and commitment. As a leader in Slalom's Business Advisory Services practice, she leads strategic initiatives to bring new levels of transformation and change management to clients. With 20+ years of consulting experience and deep expertise in executive coaching, organization effectiveness, strategy, and team effectiveness, she has a proven track record for delivering solutions that drive growth, accelerate innovation and result in improved outcomes. Carly can be reached at [email protected]

CHECK FOR TICKETS / JOIN OUR WAITING LIST! It's not a virtual event. It's not a conference. It's not a seminar, a meeting, or a symposium. It's not about attracting a big crowd. It's not about making a profit, but rather about making a real difference. LEARN MORE HERE