Do You Communicate Clearly? Words that Work may be Lesson # 2

At the First Friday Book Synopsis, we have chosen books that touch on every aspect of business life and success.  A recurring theme seems to be communication.  Getting your message out, clearly, concisely, without confusion — this is one tough assignment.  I have presented synopses of Words that Work by Frank Luntz, and Made to Stick:  Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip Heath and Dan Heath.  Both of these books are good, useful, practical.

In Made to Stick, the authors commend six principles for successfully communicating messages that will stick:

Principle 1 Simplicity 
Principle 2 Unexpectedness
Principle 3 Concreteness
Principle 4 Credibility
Principle 5 Emotions
Principle 6 Stories

(By the way, remembering Aristotle and the ancient rhetoricians is always useful:  of the six principles, ethos, pathos, and mythos are clearly evident, and logos is never far behind).

In Words that Work, Luntz proposes 10 Rules for Successful Communicators.  (Yes, there is some overlap in these two lists).

The Ten Rules of Successful Communication:

Rule 1 Simplicity:  Use Small Words
Rule 2 Brevity:  Use Short Sentences
Rule 3 Credibility is as Important as Philosophy
Rule 4 Consistency Matters
Rule 5 Novelty:  Offer Something New
Rule 6 Sound and Texture Matter (alliteration)
Rule 7 Speak Aspirationally
Rule 8 Rule Eight – Visualize
Rule 9 Ask a Question
Rule 10 Prepare Context and Explain Relevance

And in this book, the conservative Luntz quotes from the liberal Warren Beatty for a really great piece of insight: “People forget what you say, but they remember how you made them feel.”

So, yes, you can learn a lot about successful communication from these and other books.  But recently, I was re-reading my handout from an early year from the First Friday Book Synopsis. I presented the classic work by Robert Greenleaf, Servant Leadership:  A Journey into the Nature of Legitimate Power and Greatness.  (To my knowledge, Greenleaf coined the term servant leadership).  And, as usual, the greatest piece of advice is found in such a jewel.  Here it is — you can almost forget everything else, and communicate this way.  Let’s call Words that Work Lesson #2, and call this Lesson #1:

“If you have something important to communicate, if you can possibly manage it, put your hand over your mouth and point.”

It simply does not get any clearer than that.

(To purchase my synopses of Made to Stick and Words that Work, with handout + audio, go to our 15 Minute Business Book site).

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