Have you heard that old expression, “mind your p’s and q’s”? The actual origin of why we say “p’s and q’s” is interesting to look up, and there are several possible theories. In general, we understand that expression to mean “be on your best behavior” or “mind your manners”.

For communicators, there are a few “p’s” to remember, what I am calling the three P’s: Be Prepared, Be Polite, Be Professional.

If you are giving a speech, be prepared. Over-prepare. Prepare well in advance. Practice. Research. Know your audience. Know the group and its mission. Prepare your voice. Prepare your mind. The more prepared you are, the less harried and frustrated you will feel. The more prepared you are, the better able you will be to handle any unexpected circumstances (i.e., microphones not working, shorter time or longer time speaking than expected, interruptions, etc.) A prepared person, in general, is a happier person. Be a happy prepared person. 🙂

The same principle applies to writing, though in a different way. If you are writing on a particular topic, research that topic. Become as much of an expert as you need to be. If you end up with more material than you can use, you can file it or save it, but you will have done a thorough job. After all, if you are writing about it, you should know it. Your readers will know the difference. Be a happy prepared writer. 🙂

Second, be polite. Choose to be polite in your communication. If you are speaking or writing- or simply having a conversation- choose the high road. Keep your calm, resist the urge to interrupt, be a good listener, and think before responding. This is also true if you are writing. Before responding to a blog post or controversial Facebook post, be polite. A polite communicator is a happy communicator. That politeness will make others happier, too.

Finally, be professional. If you are a professional writer or speaker, this should go without saying. If you are a freelancer, this should go without saying. If you are a professional, or would like to be one, then act like one. As a professional, you will need to maintain professional communication. There are varying degrees, of course, according to your clients, who could be your best friend, or who could be a small business. Either way, maintain the appropriate level of professionalism. A professional communicator is a happy communicator.

In conclusion, mind the three “P’s” in your communication! If you’re minding your “p’s”, you’re probably already minding your “q’s”. 🙂

Question for you: Think of a professional or someone you have done business with lately (it could be anyone, the plumber, the mail carrier, an airline steward, a manager at a store, etc.). Do a quick, brief mental evaluation of your interaction in that situation. Was the individual prepared, polite, and professional? Were you pleased with their communication? Were you pleased with your response to them? Why or why not? What can you learn about these interactions? How can you be the professional you wish others to be?