Seven Principles of Authentic Communications ©

Many years ago I met Bojinka Bishop at a fabulous conference of the International Association for Public Participation. At the time, I was facilitating quite a lot of public engagement for government agencies. Most of the participants were involved in communicating and engaging constituents, where they be businesses, nonprofit organizations or government agencies.

Gayle speaking

Gayle (in her younger days)

It it critical when engaging stakeholders that they are clear on what level of influence they will have on the outcome, or you will have quite a few unhappy campers. Are you merely bringing people together to inform them? Are you consulting them, where there is some sense that what they say could influence the final outcome? Or are they actually having a major role in making the final decision?

To improve communications and build trust, participants need well-honed skills. Bojinka Bishop believes that all participants should be trained to improve their effectiveness.

Here are her seven principles of authentic communications to guide yours:

1. Communicate fundamental facts and issues, not peripheral ones.

2. Information must be relevant to the people with whom you are communicating.

3. Maintain consistency between your (or your organization’s) actions and words.

4. Be truthful and accurate in the information you provide.

5. Information and individuals should be accessible. Information should be easy to get and people easy to approach.

6. Language should be clear and understandable.

7. Be compassionate [empathetic] for other’s feelings, circumstances and needs.

You can use these seven principles as ground rules to guide your communications. I believe these are useful principles for communications within your board of directors and between board and staff’s. Good communications build trust, critical to any group and collaboration.

My primer, Meaningful Collaboration, a activist’s guide to collaborative policy making, is free to download. If you’d like copies of the booklet, please contact me at

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