I think, at this point, I can safely say that no one in the world is more famous for speaking his or her mind than U.S. President Donald Trump. Also true: his blunt and sometimes nasty words have repercussions. I say this as a Canadian who woke up to the news, following the recent G7 summit, that President Trump called the leader of my country, Prime Minister Trudeau, “dishonest,” and “meek and mild.”
As well, his trade adviser, Peter Navarro, said that there was a “special place in hell” for any leader, meaning Trudeau, who engaged in what Navarro characterized as “bad faith diplomacy” with President Trump. It was insulting, inappropriate, and, frankly, rather baffling. Trudeau had already held a post-G7 press conference in which he criticized Trump’s steel and aluminum trade tariffs. And, there was nothing in that press conference that appeared to be an obvious cause for Trump’s choice of words.
As unpleasant as Trump’s communication about Trudeau was, it’s doubtful it was thoughtless. In fact, it was likely a political strategy. At the time, Trump was about to meet with North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un. Trump may well have thought that this kind of public insulting of Trudeau would make him appear strong in the North Korean leader’s eyes.
It backfired! Other world leaders thought Trump was out of line. Famous American actor, Robert De Niro, speaking in Canada, publicly apologized for “the idiotic behaviour of my president. Americans even started tweeting using the hashtag “thank Canada” to express their embarrassment and their appreciation, for all things Canadian.
Whether or not Trump intended his words about Trudeau as a political strategy, the fact remains that what he said was tone deaf, and it caused a major world kerfuffle. It’s a perfect example of what, as a businessperson, you need to try and avoid. It got me thinking about how tone deaf communications, particularly email ones can easily upset people. It can even cause the recipient to misunderstand the sender’s intentions.
At the Language Lab, we frequently work with clients on our popular business email writing course to help them avoid this kind of tone deaf language. I’d like to share some tips from that course on the blog, key points that will help ensure youaren’t tone deaf in your email communications.
Tips to Avoid Tone Deaf Business Communications
- Keep emails conversational and friendly
- Avoid using ALL CAPS. That makes it seem as though you are SHOUTING.
- Show some understanding of your recipient. If you don’t know the person well, do some research before you send that email.
- Consider picking up the phone if you have any concern that it will be difficult to convey by email what you want to express.
- Fine tune your communication to fit the specific recipient. Don’t just fire off an email; read it over and edit, edit, and edit some more.
- Be constructive and positive. Say what you cando, not what you can’t
- Don’t respond when you’re angry. Let your emotions settle so that you can communicate clearly and politely.
- If you are trying to persuade someone of something, make sure to provide evidence.
- Be thoughtful, respectful, and informed: It’s how you achieve a pitch perfect tone.
I should note, that Peter Navarro later apologized for his “special place in hell” comment referring to Prime Minister Trudeau. He admitted he used language that was “inappropriate.” Even though Trump has not made any such apology for his comments about Trudeau, the fact that a key advisor would apologize tells you that the White House is well aware of how tone deaf their leader’s attack really was. It’s a cautionary tale; one that Canadians won’t forget for a long time.
To learn how to make sure your business communications aren’t tone deaf, contact me at The Language Lab.