Failure to Communicate, Part 2

Human earLast time we reminisced about the infamous Cool Hand Luke line about a failure to communicate. Funny in the movie, but not so funny in your company’s efforts to get your message across. Good communication has to leave the sender accurately and then be perceived by the receiver. Your receivers will each take in the message only after it goes through a series of filters they create. Those filters include things like credibility, time, relevance and language. Are you credible enough to believe? Do I have time to read (or hear) the message? Do I care about what’s being said? Can I understand the language?

The last filter, the language one, is probably the easiest to control and permeate. In its simplest form sender and receiver have to use the same language. No matter how clear, compelling and grammatically perfect your message may be in English, if your receiver doesn’t understand English, you’ll never get your point across. Even when you both use the same language, spoken dialects and phraseologies create failures to communicate. I remember my fifth grade teacher, in her very Southern accent, telling the class to “get your wraps and go out for re-SESS” at mid-morning on the first day of school. Not one kid budged. We didn’t know she meant get our coats and go out for RE-cess. Failure to communicate, and as fifth graders, we had a vested interest in the playground. That message was important and relevant to us, but we didn’t get it.

Writing is really no different. How you write tends to parallel the relationship between body language and spoken words or between phraseology and understanding. A lot of folks get wrapped up in sounding important and educated when they write. Consider this mission statement: “With complete focus on our enumerated core values, we seek to provide the critical components necessary to implement required services so that we might meet the needs of those who entrust us to carry out our mission.” Huh? It sounds lofty, but yet it doesn’t really say a thing, does it? The real meaning is lost in the grandiose language. Failure to communicate.

In order to get over the language hurdle, you have to know your audience and pick your words accordingly. It’s far more important for the message to get through (especially your marketing messages) than it is for you to sound important. And even the simplest language and most straightforward messages resonate with the most sophisticated audiences. We’re all pressed for time. A simple, concise message will be read quicker than an elaborate one. What’s your real goal? Sounding important or making the sale?

Contact me ( or 484-769-8897), and I’ll be happy to help you use the right language to help your message get through loud and clear.

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