Marshall McLuhan, Canadian luminary, famously declared, “The medium is the message.” Yet, when it comes to business communication, whether it’s electronic or paper-based, it’s your words that matter most. As Tony Robbins, speaking about human relationships, articulated so succinctly, “words matter.” If you’ve ever had an argument with any one, I am sure you’re aware how true these words are. Each poorly chosen word escalates the argument, and simply worsens an already difficult situation.
This same principle — words matter — is also true when it comes to business communication. The words you choose act as a medium for your thoughts. Moreover, a badly or thoughtlessly chosen word may have a very negative impact on your audience. To compound this problem of poorly chosen words, people all too frequently design their communications with themselves in mind. They tend to forget the audience they’d like to engage.
When I coach people, whether I’m working with them to improve their writing or their ability to make a good presentation, my goal is to help that individual better articulate his or her thoughts, to keep the audience foremost in mind. The reason I emphasize this point is that people sometimes think that the mere act of writing a report or creating a presentation is as an end to itself. And it seems to happen,even more so, when the work isn’t carefully thought out or it includes mistakes.
A perfect example where this unmindful attitude is taken to the extreme is the automatically generated apology at the bottom of an email message, on a smart phone. I am sure you, as I, have received emails from people, who can’t be bothered checking their messages for errors. Instead, they include a generated apology in their signatures. One message, that stands out for me, said, “Please apologize for any spelling mistakes as this message was sent from my mobile phone. Awhile back, The Atlantic magazine published an article that included a list of some examples of these apologies. “Typed with big thumbs on small phone,” or “iPhone. iTypos. iApologize.”
Such email signatures may be amusing, but the reality is you can’t blame technology (or, to put it in Marshall McLuhan terms, the “medium,”) for mistakes. Ultimately, receiving poorly worded and/or misspelled messages will not impress the recipient.
So, what can you do to make sure you create the right impression and your message is well received, as you intend it to be? Consider the following three key points:
3 Ways To Make “Words Matter”
1. Think first: Take the time to think carefully about what you want to say before writing any form of business communication, or preparing a presentation. Remember, the message is what counts. For your communication to matter you have to clearly articulate what it is you want to convey.
2. Think like your audience: Think about who your audience is. Consider the impact you want to have on them. They are the receiver of your message. If it doesn’t resonate with them, because you’ve overlooked their needs, it’s a detriment to them, as well as to you.
3. Think that every word matters: Choose your words carefully. They need to be powerful, persuasive, and precise. They also need to be accurate. It’s not good enough to say in advance, “I’m probably going to make a mistake, sorry!
There’s no question that contemporary business technology (the computer, the smart phone) has had an impact on how business communications are delivered. But that’s what much technology really is, the means of delivery, not the message itself. For you, as a business communicator, consistently expressing strong and clear messages is essential to helping you reach your goals, whatever they may be. And reaching your goals is something for which you should never need to apologize.
Want help shaping your message? Contact me at The Language Lab.