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  • Writer's pictureBarbara J. Mayfield, MS, RDN, LD, FAND

Is your communication CLEAR? Yes. When we communicate clearly and simply.

a clear glass with water

What does it mean to be clear?

That depends. Are you using clear as an adjective, an adverb, or a verb?

When referring to the water in the glass pictured above, clear is an adjective, describing the water and the glass as transparent or unclouded.

When referring to clear communication, clear is also an adjective. In this context, clear means easy to perceive, understand, or interpret. That is the clear we are striving to achieve in clear communication.

In this post, we will explore why and how to communicate clearly.

Why is clear communication essential?

Clear communication is essential for messages to be correctly received and interpreted by an audience in the way the communicator intended. Clear communication by definition is easy to perceive, understand, and interpret.

When communication is unclear the result is miscommunication, and the intended message is incorrectly received and misinterpreted. The purpose of the intended message is not achieved.

In previous posts, we have explored the numerous ways in which we miscommunicate. Each type of miscommunication results in a lack of clarity making the message difficult to understand, the opposite of clear.

For example, the use of jargon is common among healthcare professionals. We understand the meaning of words like cachexia but our patients may not. To be clear is to use alternate words that explain its meaning and say that due to disease they are experiencing a poor appetite and a loss of muscle and weight.

For more examples of jargon, see the post: Miss Aligned leaves you out.

Clear communication is the law!

The Plain Writing Act of 2010 requires that federal agencies use clear communication the public can understand and use.

The guidelines listed clearly and simply highlight what it takes to be clear:

Even if you don’t work in a federal agency, creating clear communication is the right thing to do.

How can I work on being clear in my communication?

First, recognize that you are likely miscommunicating more often than you think. You can assess the ways you most often miscommunicate using the quiz linked on the homepage and making the appropriate corrections outlined.

Know your audience and say what you mean using words they know and understand. Find out what words are meaningful to your audience. Simpler words can be both accurate and understandable.

Test your messages with your target audience. Ask them what the message means to them. Revise your wording until they understand what you mean. If someone reading or hearing your message can’t answer the question “What’s the point?” you don’t have a clear message.

When communicating, whether one-on-one such as in a counseling encounter, or when exchanging ideas and information with large or small audiences, putting the principles in the CLEAR acronym into practice promotes effective communication.

This post explored the principle of C - communicate clearly and simply. In our next post, we will explore what the L in CLEAR stands for - the importance of leveraging the use of visual aids effectively.

“It’s simple but transformative. Clear is kind. Unclear is unkind.” ~ Brené Brown

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