Perhaps the main principle of ethical communication is honesty, as other factors stem from this core value of presenting information in the most reliable and factual way possible. Any attempt to mislead or present confusing information is not ethical communication. Additionally, the “honesty” principle of ethical communication is linked inexorably to other core principles - consistency and responsibility. This entails that information presented to different parties be consistent, and that short-term and long-term consequences of honest communication are to be accepted as one’s responsibility.
Ethical communication also assumes that communicated information is always presented (and received by the listener) according to one’s subjective perception, even if only in the most minimal way, and thus the goal of ethical communication is to be as objective as possible when communicating with others and to ensure that every recipient receives the same message.
Openness and Transparency
Truthfulness & honesty is the most core principle of ethical communication. This means that speaking 99 percent of the truth in a matter - while leaving out one percent of the facts - is not ethical communication, as omitting any detail (intentionally) changes the way that a listener will perceive an event. Thus, being 100 percent open and transparent, and hiding nothing, is key in order for all business relationships - whether within a business between its members, or with business and their partners, or even customers - to succeed in the short term and long term.
Being honest is linked to one’s personal and professional trustworthiness and integrity. In a perfect world, all members of an organization would have a positive reputation of honesty, such that listeners never doubt that what they are saying is 100 percent true. Within an organization - and between businesses - this type of honest communication can be the difference between a project being completed successfully or not. For instance, utilizing ethical communication, to be honest about the time and/or budget constraints during a board meeting with primary stakeholders can be the difference between the project meeting its goals, or failing due to misunderstandings and/or miscommunication. Thus, one of the primary goals of ethical communication is to prevent any misunderstandings or instances of miscommunication.
Consideration for Any Potential Roadblocks
When communicating with another party, truly ethical communication entails considering any potential factor that may influence how the recipient understands - or receives - the information that is being communicated. If there are any known roadblocks, then ethical communication principles dictate that the speaker/communicator utilize whatever means possible to mitigate or attenuate the roadblocks and ensure that the recipients of the information are able to fully understand what is being communicated.
Several examples are below where roadblocks may present themselves, resulting in the communicator needing to take steps to attenuate any potential instances of miscommunication:
Obviously, ethical communication dictates that speakers utilize the language that listeners understand. It would make little sense to present a business presentation in English to a non-English speaking Chinese audience. Taking this example further, it would also be unethical to communicate the information mostly in Chinese, with a certain section in English, presenting only parts of the data to the Chinese audience.
Every industry has its own jargon. When speaking to a layperson, it is ethical to speak with simple, easy-to-understand words, while avoiding the use of heavy jargon, resulting in portions of the presentation/communication being incomprehensible to a portion of the audience.
Ethical communication takes into account the level of fluency as well as the language spoken by listeners so that recipients of the communication (whether it be spoken or written) are able to fully understand what is being communicated.
Accessibility to Technology
In this information and digital age, some take accessibility to advanced technology for granted. For instance, while smartphones are readily available, and translation apps are abundant, not everyone is able to access such applications or platforms. If a business wanted to present certain pieces of information to an audience while expecting the audience to translate it into their native language via an application, there may be confusion. Thus, the ability to access certain technology - and the know-how on how to use certain applications - may be a roadblock when it comes to ethically communicating to a particular audience.
Development of Relationship
The art of communication allows people to express themselves in order to develop relationships. In business, this can be an employee dealing with a manager, executives communicating with stakeholders, or managers talking with other business representatives. It is critical for there to be no confusion or misunderstandings when businesses try to develop relationships within themselves and with other business entities or clients/customers. To accomplish this, ethical communication principles must be followed, ensuring that all parties can receive the consistent truth, and understand what needs to be done, and how it needs to be done.