I have a confession to make.

Sometimes what I think I am saying is not what people hear and sometimes I write emails that are misconstrued.

We live in a world where we can communicate whatever we want with a few clicks of the keyboard or the touch of a screen. Miscommunication is a common symptom of these communication advances. So, I started using a strategy to help me limit my communication missteps and I call it the “plus-one” strategy.

You know that saying, “Time enjoyed is never time wasted”? As educators we also talk about the idea that time spend building relationships is never wasted time. Let’s add another saying to that list:

Communication that includes a plus-one is never miscommunication.

Before we define a plus-one together, take a listen to my voicemail message.

Of course I say the normal, “thank you for calling and leave me a message, blah blah blah,” stuff in my voicemail message, but a few months ago I also added a plus-one. I took advantage of the opportunity to tell callers that I love my job and that our school is awesome by saying that I am the luckiest principal in the world.

A plus-one is an additional message we build into communication. We have an intended message to share, like “hey, it’s a half-day on Friday” and the plus-one is an extra message that helps build relationships and strengthen culture. For instance, to remind families of the half-day and add in a plus-one, we could write an email like this:

Dear Families, 

You get to start the weekend early with a half-day this Friday. We are having an amazing week and we are sorry to cut it a little short, but we look forward to seeing all your smiling faces on Monday morning.

Thank you!

Your Grateful School Staff

After practicing the plus-one strategy for a while now, I find myself typing a quick email and then hesitating when I go to press send. In that pause, I ask myself where I could build in a plus-one statement that will help build our relationship or where I could add something in that would make the recipient’s day. How could I enhance our culture in addition to communicating the intended message?

There are a couple reasons that adding a plus-one is so valuable. First, even if the original purpose of the communication is misconstrued, the plus-one usually isn’t misunderstood. Therefore, the communication is never wasted because it is always helps build relationships or culture. And, it is hard to interpret a message in a negative way when we are deliberately adding in positivity.

Second, the plus-one helps slide in relationship-building and culture-building messages into the everyday communication we do and becomes a way of life for us. I might email staff really quickly to remind of something mundane like a meeting location but slip in the fact that I love them or that they are amazing. Two birds, one stone.

If we can add a plus-one to a quick email or even our voicemail message, where else could we add one in? Smiling and expressing gratitude as often as possible is an easy way to add a plus-one in face-to-face communication. Quincy Elementary teachers do a wonderful job making sure students and families know that they love their jobs and are excited about student learning in their newsletters. Could we add a plus-one into a math lesson? An intercom announcement? You betcha! We can slide in a plus-one anywhere.

Let’s all take the plus-one challenge. Please let me know where you creatively add in a plus-one message. Share with us at #Path2Serendipity so we can grow together!

Communication that includes a plus-one is never miscommunication.

3 thoughts on “Plus-One”

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