What’s the first thing out of your mouth when you’re explaining a tough situation to someone who will be affected by it?
Do you have a long “on-ramp,” when you’re explaining all the backstory? Do you start with why it’s not your fault? Do you take forever to get to the point?
Think carefully about how you begin. I like to think of this as your “headline.” Let’s say you just got off the phone with a client who is upset. What headline works?
“Whew, Mary at XYZ Widgets really blew up when I told her we weren’t going to have her delivery there on time.”
“I told the lady at XYZ Widgets I had to take my snake to the vet, but she didn’t care, and then I had to explain about his eating disorder…”
“No big deal, but you may be getting a call from XYZ Widgets about their delivery schedule.”
“We’ve run into an issue regarding delivery at XYZ Widgets. I have two suggestions of what we can do to fix the situation, and I’d love to hear your thoughts.”
Obviously, I’ve taken these examples to extremes to demonstrate the point. Here’s the idea. Before you begin, think about what the person you’re talking to needs to hear, and how to position the information. Will they need to take action? Is this a progress report? Do you need their support?
Choose a concise sentence or two to encapsulate the gist, then let them respond.