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Effective communication in tough times

BY: Dr Enyonam Canice Kudonoo
 A cartoon illustrating effective ways to communicate
A cartoon illustrating effective ways to communicate

“In many ways, effective communication begins with mutual respect; communication that inspires, encourages others to do their best.” — Zig Ziglar

Effective communication is a vital anti-corruption tool for achieving success in life’s endeavours. Relationships thrive when there is effective communication. It gives life to our interactions with one another and can be likened to the fuel that keeps a vehicle in motion, without which we cannot reach our destinations or ethically achieve our life goals.

Effective communication enables us to excel in education, achieve our career aspirations, be healthy, be on track when we go astray, be disciplined, build closer ties with our families, superiors, subordinates, colleagues and neighbours, strengthens our friendship ties, consoles us in times of trouble and motivates us to move on regardless of the challenges we encounter.

To this end, one’s ability to acquire the skill of effectively communicating the right way, using the right tone, at the right time, with the right words, in the right environment and in the right situation, to suit the right audience, is an essential life skill that must be consistently developed by all.

This article discusses the art of effective communication in tough times, when things are not going the way we planned, to respectfully calm people down, and give them hope to continue being resilient and persevere for a better tomorrow.

Tough Times


Tough times can be described metaphorically as embarking on a journey on a rugged road with bumps, mountains and deep dark valleys, making the journey very difficult. They are times when people face economic, environmental and health challenges, among others, which make them very uncomfortable, leading to them seeking solutions for positive change.

Tough times are situations where people are anxious and easily provoked or irritable. The adage “a hungry man is an angry man” paints the picture vividly. Tough times are situations where people work hard but their earnings fall short of meeting their daily basic needs. Tough times are times when people walk around, displaying emotions that are inconsistent with what they actually feel, pretending all is well when the reality is the opposite. Jerald Greenberg in his book “Managing Behaviour in Organisations” termed such a phenomenon “emotional dissonance”, distinguishing between how people feel and how they act in public during tough times.

This article proposes two ways such situations could be handled positively by those in authority, and who have the wherewithal to reduce the emotional labour people go through in tough times. The first is to address the issue causing the phenomenon by removing it immediately out of the way so people can get quick relief. Thus, making the bumpy road smooth and leveling the mountains on the way for a smooth life’s journey. The second, which is the focus of this article is to effectively communicate with people and encourage them to hold on for better days ahead.

Effective Communication

Effective communication in tough times is the type of communication that provides hope for recipients of the message. It gives recipients the hope that all will be well, shortly, should they persevere to the end. It encourages people to be resilient in their struggle for relief and emancipation from their challenges. According to Jim Rohn, it is 20 per cent of what the communicator knows and 80 per cent of how he/she feels about what he/she knows.

This means that effective communication invokes emotions in recipients. Accordingly, it is expedient to give great thought to the objective of what one wants to communicate and how to communicate (choice of words) to achieve one’s objective. William Yeats shows how an effective communicator can achieve this particular goal by suggesting that one should “think as a wise man but communicate in the language of the people.” Practical wisdom plays a critical role in the sense that thoughts must be given to what is to be communicated so that the message does not backfire.

Effective communication gives people the ability to manoeuvre their way through tough times. The situation does not change, but the words used in the message serve as balm that soothes bleeding wounds and aching hearts and brings about the change one desires. The Appreciative Inquiry Theory expounds by stating that:

“Words do create worlds even in unintended ways… When they are connected in full voice to create not just new worlds, but the best worlds. Words are vehicles that coordinate our actions with one another. Words, in any profession, function a bit like tools of the trade. A negative voice is like a visionless voice and a visionless voice is worse than no voice.”

Accordingly, communicating in tough times needs critical thinking to carefully choose the right words to compose the right positive message for people to hear, understand, appreciate, be inspired and be on the same level of understanding as the communicator.
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