The next time you have to deliver a difficult message to an employee, be sure to think about these 10 things before the meeting.

1. Consider the importance of the message.

If the message is important, go face-to-face with the receiver. Learn to use all three of your natural mediums for sending messages.

2. Consider the needs and abilities of the receiver.

If the message is important, go face to face with the receiver. Learn to use all three of your natural mediums for sending messages. Put yourself in the shoes of the receiver for a moment and try to understand their reference point. Try to identify what the receiver needs in order to better understand your message. The better you know an individual the better this technique works.

3. Consider how much and how soon feedback is needed.

Complicated messages, and in particular those intended to create a behavioral change in the receiver, may require different levels of feedback. Consider which levels are appropriate for the person with whom you are dealing.

4. Consider the big picture concept.

Sometimes it is effective to present the larger scope of a given situation, especially if you are trying to develop a greater sense of understanding. Learn to answer the “why” question (i.e., why you are doing what you are doing, or why are you asking the person to do a particular task).

5. Consider whether formality or informality is desired.

Some people work better in an informal setting, others need a formal setting. Also, remember that the setting sends a message. Always choose a setting that is consistent with the message that you want to send and make sure it is not within hearing distance of others.

6. Consider whether a written record is needed.

Memos of record and written instructions can be used to follow up a conversation for verification and can also serve as a record of the session. These written notes and records are for you as much as for the employee.

7. Consider whether or not the communication is directed towards something over which the other person has control.

Frustration is only increased when a person is reminded of shortcomings over which they have no control. Aim the message at something that can be changed.

8. Consider what attitude you are conveying.

Show a willingness to entertain alternative ways of working through the problem when possible, not the “my way or the highway” position. Also, downplay differences in status wherever possible. Pulling rank results in hard feelings.

9. Consider the timing of your message.

Information is most useful if it is offered at the earliest opportunity after the given behavior has occurred.

10. Consider the complexity of your language.

Keep it simple and as specific as you can.