Wednesday, February 16, 2011

If u cn rd ths hidn msg, u mt b a hllva ldr

Originally uploaded by poorusher
Whether at work or at home, any leader worth his or her salt recognizes that in any single interaction - even in every single phrase - many messages are being sent simultaneously.  When two people communicate you might notice three distinct (and perhaps conflicting) pieces of information - the obvious surface message, the message behind the message,  and the unintended message - and that's just for starters.

How you say it is incredibly important, yet oftentimes in situations where time pressure, mixed feelings, or high intensity affect your communication process it's easy to forget that unintentional messaging can easily become communication gone sour.  Let's talk about a few of the common pitfalls:

I'll admit to being a bit of a spelling geek, but poor spelling can communicate lack of education or lack of intelligence.  I'm not trying to be insulting here.  Some people care about spelling and some people don't, but if you don't spell well and you have to write for someone who considers accuracy in spelling to be a key quality indicator, you are in deep doo-doo.  Use your spell check every time, and then check your checked spelling.  (In banking I used to have to use the words "note" and "rate" quite often.  Depending upon my particular typo, spell check would change my mistake into a recognizable word - just not the correct one.)

Use some.  Shorter sentences and relatively short paragraphs will help the message get through faster, and to a wider range of reading levels.  Understand though, that short sentences can also sound like commands.  That doesn't always serve your purpose (remember the message behind the message?).  On the other hand, if you go on and on and never break a thought for a pause and you keep the same sentence going and you connect all of the parts with the word "and" your unintended message will be that you are unable to sort the information in your head well enough to chunk it into comprehensible pieces and that will drive people to think you might be either seven years old or a little bit nuts.  One more thing - if you frequently use exclamation points or multiple question marks at the end of sentences people will know that you used to be a cheerleader, and that you have never gotten over it.

The order in which you choose to organize your words has a HUGE impact on the message perceived.  I'm a Pennsyvania Dutch girl - if you're Pennsylvania German as well I'm sure you know what I mean when I say "Please throw down the steps a pair of socks!"   If you're not, well, I've just revealed to you that I'm Pennsylvania German, and that my local lingo has just overwhelmed sixteen years of schooling.  Colloquial (informal) syntax often isn't welcome in business communication.  In a global economy it can be greatly to your advantage to sound homogenized enough that you could be from New York, or from California, or from Wichita, or from "France."  (Goofy Coneheads reference for you old folks out there...)

Word Choice
It comes down to this:  you can use big words, small words, foreign words, or swear words.  Any word choice you make reveals whether you think the communication is about the receiver of the message or about you.  Match the word choice to the audience.  If you don't do so, you'll risk coming across as a vulgar pseudointellectual with egomaniacal tendencies, a narcissist, a braggart, a ....  Enough said on this point.

Ambiguous Combinations
This communication method is sometimes unintentional, but often is strategically employed when you have been asked to say something and you want plausible deniability later.  I have a favorite book on this, titled Lexicon of Intentionally Ambiguous Recommendations, or L.I.A.R., by Robert Thorton.   This concept is best demonstrated with examples:
  • "I would place this student in a class by himself."  Really?  Why does he have to be alone?
  • "She works effortlessly."  Is it easy for her, or does she apply no effort to her work?
  • "You will never catch him asleep on the job."  Is it that he never sleeps on the job, or that you'll never catch him?
  • "Whenever he asked for a raise, we generally let him have it."  With a sledgehammer?
  • "There is nothing you can teach a woman like her."  She's not too bright.
In Summary
Tread carefully in your communication today.  Bee aware tht peepul are waching 2 sea weather you know what u r doing, and yur speech and riting reveal more than u realize.

1 comment:

Julie Poland, certified business coach said...

P.S. - Just to make sure somebody doesn't misunderstand and send a band of thugs to beat me senseless over my spelling comments: perception can be very different from reality. I'm not calling non-spellers stupid. I'm only suggesting that a spelling-focused person might judge a miss-spelled piece of writing and its author poorly. It might not be right for them to do so, but it happens.