Communicating more effectively with SSG: succinct, specific and generous

I came across an interesting article on Fast Company. The article explains the so-called SSG method for effective communication, developed by David Rock, co-founder of the NeuroLeadership Institute. Rock focuses on applying neuroscientific insights to leadership and organizational development. He has authored several books, including Your Brain at Work and Quiet Leadership, and is a pioneer in the field of neuroscience and leadership.
SSG stands for “succinct, specific, and generous”. This method is intended to reduce misunderstandings and wasted time in workplace communication and consists of three key elements.

1. Succinct

The article explains that being succinct leads to a clearer message because it reduces the cognitive load on the recipient. We tend to take longer than it takes to get our ideas across. By consciously being more succinct, we can get our point across more efficiently.

2. Specific

Being specific in communication means being direct and explicit, using details to paint a picture in our listener's mind. In this way we create a shared understanding and ensure that the mental image of the other person matches our own.

3. Generous

Being generous means framing our communication in an empathetic way so that it is easy for the listener or reader to understand. This means that we think about the perspective and possible interpretation of others and consciously take this into account in how we communicate.

Possible critiques of SSG

I can imagine three types of criticism of SSG:
  1. Stating the obvious: A cynic might think that the article is stating the obvious and that the SSG method merely repeats basic principles of communication that most people have known for centuries.
  2. Too hard: Cynics might also argue that it is difficult in practice to always apply these principles given the complexity and diversity of work situations.
  3. Too simple: Moreover, they might argue that improving communication within a team or organization is not always as simple as using three simple principles, but rather is a matter of addressing deeper issues such as company culture, personal relationships and motivation.


While I understand these kind of cynical comments to a certain extent, I think they are too simplistic.
  1. Knowing is not enough: Although many people will recognize the SSG principles and have a feeling of 'I already knew', the question is whether they take these principles into account often enough in their own communication. Knowing is one thing, doing is another.
  2. Difficult is not a reason not to do it: In addition, it is true that everyday practice in work situations can be complex. Applying these simple principles can be challenging in this complex reality. But this is no reason not to try. The complexity and diversity of work situations can benefit greatly from these types of clear and effective communication rules.
  3. Useful starting point: In addition, it is of course true that improving communication and collaboration does indeed not only depend on following three simple steps. But models such as the SSG method can be a useful starting point for tackling communication problems. Communicating succinctly, specifically and generously can have a positive impact on communication within a team or organization and ultimately contribute to progress.