It’s Not Just What You Say, It’s How You Say It: 6 Ways to Improve School Communication

Don’t type at me like that!

Don’t Be Tone Deaf: 6 Ways to Improve School Communication

Sign language translators convey emotion and tone without saying a word. Sad. Mad. Frustrated. Worried. Conveying tone in face-to-face meetings includes gestures and facial expressions in addition to actual spoken word tone. Email communications rely only on the written word. How can you better show emotions and intention in an email? Just as a sign language translator finds ways to show emotions through signs, you can add further dimension to your written school communication. Try these 6 tips to help bring the right tone to your messages:

1. Reduce word clutter in emails

Sign language translators purposefully wear solid colors and no jewelry so that that their hands speak without visual clutter. The idea of removing visual clutter from emails, means not letting excess words clutter up email communications. Instead of presenting several ideas in one email, choose your words intentionally and stick to the most important ideas. It’s better to send one email per topic despite your desire for efficiency.

2. Find the sign of the email tone

American Sign Language includes a sign called simply Deaf/Blunt. The sign expresses that the signed words are not meant to offend even if they might come across differently. Oh, how I wish everyone could use this sign! As you write communications, think about the written tone of your message. Can it be misconstrued or misread? Is it too blunt? While simple updates may require no explanation, explaining a hard situation or expressing bad news may need a clarification at the outset. By adding a simple caveat or clarifying statement, teachers and staff may be less likely to misinterpret your written words.

3. How do the words sound?

In American Sign Language, translators take note of their own facial reactions and any emotions expressed as they sign. As you express your ideas or thoughts in emails and newsletters; think about how the words translate. Are you expressing your own anger or frustration about a situation? Do you want your audience to feel a certain way about an issue? Try reading the communication out loud in a neutral tone to test. Are you expressing the idea without applying a preconceived emotion but with the right written tone?

4. Setting the right tone for your audience

Sign language translators make sure they set their tone properly by asking relevant questions and being aware. Who is your written communication going to? Sending an email to a teacher or staff member may need a different tone than a similar email going to parents. Consulting with other administrators or teachers for their reactions to important messaging can be similarly helpful. Does the email read as information or overly emotional to them? What would they suggest to better convey the intended ideas? Are you presenting the latest ideas and terms? Taking their thoughts into consideration can help the content also be more identifiable to your audience.

5. Find and maintain trust through in-person contact

Businesses and companies hiring sign language translators often try to maintain the same translator because the audience gains a trust level and familiarity. As you communicate with your staff and teachers, think about where your trust level resides. During face-to-face meetings with parents and teachers, think of how those interactions might later translate into better tone in emails.

6. Know when spoken words are best

Even sign language translators occasionally come across a word or phrase that can’t be conveyed. If you look at your email or a newsletter item and find it likely to be misconstrued or misread; an in-person staff meeting may be a better option. Noting in the email that an in-person meeting or phone call is the best response can help you clear up any confusion.

By listening in to your tone, you can better guide and increase the quality of your written school communication.

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Amy Barnes

Posted by Amy Barnes