You’ve probably worn something like a baseball cap that usually comes in one size. I’ve done it myself and not thought twice about it because, after all, a baseball cap easily adjusts to fit your head. But, when I see that little “o/s” label inside other clothing items it makes me feel uncomfortable. How is it that one shirt, for example, can fit well on anyone, big or small? The answer is: It can’t!

The website Wonderopolis pinpoints exactly why that “o/s” (one-size-fits-all) label makes me feel uncomfortable. The label implies that this item of clothing was designed with a lack of attention to detail, or for one that is simply shapeless. “It treats all people the same when obviously they aren’t.”

So, when I saw an ad recently for a financial institution saying, “Your financial goals aren’t one-size-fits-all,” I thought it was a shrewd piece of marketing. After all, finances are definitely not like one-size-fits-all pantyhose, where the worst thing that can happen to the wearer is that her waist feels pinched, or she’ll just have to yank up sliding stockings. If your financial needs are treated just like the next person’s, there’s a good chance you’re not going to get the best possible financial advice.

I’ve also seen attempts to apply the “one-size-fits-all” approach to education. I find this particularly troubling. Having taught in the classroom, I can attest to the fact that one-size most definitely does not fit all when it comes to how people learn. Many students struggle with standardized testing or with classroom procedures that don’t suit their learning style. In fact, having an in-depth understanding about the ways in which people learn is one of the reasons I offer online learning courses at The Language Lab. With online learning it’s easier to customize my approach with clients than say with a one-off workshop.

And in business communication, as in education, individual needs are important. That’s why I like what Leah Mether has to say about this subject on her website, Methmac Communications.

“Communication is all about perception. What you say is not necessarily what someone else hears and how you intend for your message to be heard is not necessarily how someone will take it. How someone hears your message will depend on their own communication style, personality, preferences, experience, knowledge, emotional intelligence, mindset, and much more.”

Because people have different backgrounds and communication styles, it’s essential to always shape your message to your audience’s needs. That’s why I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Do your research! Find out what you can about your audience; who they are, what kinds of obstacles they face, and what they hope to get from you. Above all, don’t assume that what works for one audience will work for another. Communication is not like that pair of pantyhose intended to fit anyone from petite to extra-large. Some audiences need succinct, brief communication, and anything of greater length may lose their interest. Other audiences may find “extra-small” communications too curt or confusing, because they don’t include enough detail. In business communication your goal should be not the pair of pantyhose that anyone can squeeze into or pull up to her chin, it should be the pair that’s exactly the right fit!

Want help customizing your business communications to fit your audiences? Contact me at The Language Lab and we’ll show you how.Â

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