It’s no secret that owners and leaders of construction companies aren’t writing wizards. You didn’t go to school for writing, after all, but it turns out that you need to have effective written communication skills to grow your business.
Disorganized, gut-response writing can cause a lot of damage in this industry and make or break relationships and contracts.
How can you learn to handle high-pressure, difficult, emotional situations in written form? How can you succinctly write out what you need in a way that makes the recipient want to work with you?
I got all the details from professional wordsmith Joshua Lisec on how construction company leaders and employees can write persuasively and effectively. It’s a simple three-step process you and your team can start implementing now. It might take some practice, but eventually, it will become second nature.
Step 1: Draft your communication immediately
When you get an email from someone on your project, you likely have an immediate instinct to respond emotionally. Some phrases that might come to your mind first may be:
- “I literally already told you this.”
- “You made me very”
- “I never told you to do that.”
- “You absolutely didn’t listen.”
These words in bold are adverbs; adverbs modify specific nouns or verbs and typically carry emotion with them, either positive or negative. The examples above represent negative emotions tied to those adverbs and phrases. Plus, all of them use the pronoun “you,” putting all the blame on the recipient, likely putting them in a defensive position.
When you get an email in your inbox that may frustrate you—or didn’t tell you what you wanted to hear—you may shoot off a quick, angry email using some of those phrases.
Instead, here’s my recommendation:
- Open up a reply to that email and remove the recipient—so you can avoid sending an email before it’s ready.
- Brain dump all of the thoughts you have in your head, positive or negative. This is a space for you to vent if you need.
You’ll work through removing negative emotions in the next step, but first, notice how these phrases and words may appear combative. That’s the opposite of persuasion and can often cause problems along the way.
Many of the expensive problems in construction are people problems. They can derail even the most profitable construction projects. When you make it personal, the original problem is no longer the problem. The problem becomes the people. – Joshua Lisec
Step 2: Restructure your writing in the correct order
Now that you have your thoughts out of your head, take time to restructure them and remove the negative emotions from earlier.
We don’t want people to feel like you’re coming at them with a spear. If we remove anti-persuasive communication, we become more persuasive by default. – Joshua Lisec
The questions you need to ask yourself are:
- Am I saying the right thing in the right order?
- What’s the first thing I want the recipient to read? Or, What’s the main point I want to get across?
- How am I internally motivating the recipient to want to do what I’m asking? Or, How can I be more persuasive but not pushy?
This step aims to create clear communication from your initial thoughts. Clear communication needs precise details and examples, benchmarks, deadlines, and so on. Persuasion doesn’t require the use of negative emotion or adverbs—that’s manipulation. The only thing it will make your recipient want to do is to walk away from you.
Consider using words and phrases like “we,” “in order to,” and “because” to help your recipient understand what you’re telling them. Make it feel like a collaborative conversation, not a one-sided reprimand.
Once you’ve organized your writing, you need to refine it even further.
Step 3: Refine what you’ve written to reduce confusion
It’s not enough to get rid of adverbs and say things in the correct order. You also need to make the solution to the problem feel like a win-win. Highlight that doing what you’re asking will also help the recipient.
Help the recipient understand how getting what you want gets them what they want. – Joshua Lisec
Are you asking or telling precisely what you want from the recipient? Can they read this email at a glance and know what to do without emailing you back with additional questions for clarification? If so, you’re practicing clear communication.
Remember, it’s okay to be polite and to say “please.” We’re all human, and a little kindness and humility can go a long way.
Learn more insights from industry leaders on my podcast, Construction Genius.