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  • Writer's pictureRobert Stevenson

Say What?


Robert Stevenson Blog - Think Before You Speak

The ability to communicate is the single most important skill determining your success in life. No matter where you are from, what you do, or what position you hold, you must communicate effectively if you want to succeed. The key word in that last sentence is “Effectively.” Research has demonstrated people only read about 20% of the text, therefore, 80% of information is being overlooked. Let me put it another way: 5 times as many people read ONLY the headline … that is why there is much more pressure surrounding the headline than many other parts of the content. 


The next time you want to make a point, persuade someone, sell a product, service, idea, or concept … do anything that involves words, you might want to reconsider your word choices. Ask yourself – are they powerful, meaningful, useful, current, and descriptive enough to accomplish your objective? Are they too complicated, too hip, too old, too elementary, or too confusing that you would have been better off not saying them at all? Abraham Lincoln's carefully crafted Gettysburg Address had 272 words and took just two minutes to deliver yet is regarded as one of the greatest speeches in American history. 75% of the words in his speech were one-syllable words; it was simple, powerful, memorable, and easy to understand.


I like the way George Bernard Shaw addressed the issue of communication: “The problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” Top executives understand that a person's communication skills are an important part of their individual contribution to the success of the organization. The National Association of Colleges and Employers asked employers what skill was most lacking in college job candidates. The #1 answer was “good communication skills.” It is also one of the most sought-after skills by employers.


It is not an easy task to understand the language of different generations, but in companies today everyone must do it. From bosses, managers, to associates, everyone could be confronted with having to communicate with four generations at work: Silent Generation, [1925-1942], Baby Boomers [1943-1960], Generation X [1961-1981], Generation Y [1982-1999], and another generation Generation Z [2000-present]. With all these different generations, there is an extreme possibility people are going to be misunderstood. Do not look down on someone and consider them lacking in intelligence because they used some strange slang term to describe something. They might be brilliant, but their environment or peer group could be affecting their vocabulary.


This year, Dictionary.com broke its own record with 15,000 updates to existing entries and 650 new words added. Here are a few examples: Amirite - is an informal variant spelling of the phrase 'am I right' used to elicit agreement or solidarity at the end of an observation. You definitely know what a "goat" is, but GOAT — note the capital letters — is an acronym meaning "greatest of all time."  Janky can mean "inferior in quality," but also untrustworthy; disreputable." That is to say, “Do not get in that janky car with that janky man.”


Here are some crazy memos from managers thinking they were communicating properly:

"As of tomorrow, employees will only be able to access the building using individual security cards. Pictures will be taken next Wednesday, and employees will receive their cards in two weeks.""E-mail is not to be used to pass on information or data. It should be used only for company business."

If you want to get someone’s attention, send them a hand-written note. According to the results of a recent survey, 81% of respondents consider a handwritten note to feel more meaningful than email or text. 33% of Americans haven’t received a handwritten note in over a year. 61% reported that receiving a handwritten note from a company would make them view that company more favorably, with 63% saying it would even make them more likely to read it.


One last point. Before you speak – THINK! Is it necessary? Is it true? Is it kind? Will it hurt someone? Will it improve by you being silent?



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