December 21, 2011

10 Tips to make your written communication more solution-focused

A manager asked me how solution-focused principles and techniques may be applied in e-mails and written proposals. An interesting and important question. Solution-focused practice is usually primarily associated with oral conversations but there is no reason why it could not be used in written communication as well. Here are some suggestions off-the-cuff to make your written communication a bit more solution-focused:
  1. Make it useful by asking in advance what the other person's expectations are from your text. It may sound counter-intuitive but you can just ask your clients what they would like your proposal to look like, how lengthy it should be, and what elements it should contain. 
  2. Make it simple: make your words, sentences and structure no more complicated than strictly necessary. Writing a simple text may seem easy but it usually isn't. It often requires more time and attention. But simple and clearly structured texts are more easily understood by readers and more pleasant to read. 
  3. Match the use of language of the other person. By using the key words of the other person and matching his or her language style, the other person is more likely to feel understood. Also, the other person is more likely to like you and to be willing to work with you. 
  4. Respond adequately to comments and questions: other people will appreciate it when you respond to all of their questions and comments and will be more inclined to reciprocate. 
  5. Formulate positively: whenever possible, use positive and specific language. Other people usually find this more pleasant and they will probably find it easier to respond to your positive words than they will find it to respond to negative words. 
  6. Activate the other person: ask good questions. It is nice for the other person to easily understand what is expected of him or her. 
  7. Motivate your choices and decisions in a compact, clear and positive way. Providing clear and positively phrased rationales are more easily understood and accepted. 
  8. Check whether you have understood the other person well and whether your text is useful for him or her. It often works well to explicitly ask, at the end of your text, if the text is conform the other person's expectations and/or whether it is useful. 
  9. Invite the other person to offer feedback, suggestions and corrections. By doing this, her or she will be much less likely to feel encumbered in any way when offering feedback or proposing changes. 
  10. When, in a proposal, you offer more than or something different from what the client has asked for, it often works well to mention that part as a separate module in your text so that it will be much easier for the client to choose or ignore that part.


  1. Great tips Coert. Here's one from me when developing a proposal:
    At the briefing stage ask the client:
    - When does the problem you want to fix not happen?
    - What will it look like then you have achieved your goals and the problem has gone away?
    - What will be the first signs for your team (when I'm working with them) that they are making progress

  2. Hi Alan, Thanks for these additions!

    Me and my clan wish you and yours a happy chrismas :)


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