E - RoyalI am leading a men’s leadership development group and for August we read Frank Luntz’ book, Words That Work – It’s not what you say, It’s what people hear.  We read the hardback version but the paperback just came out (of course right after I ordered the hardbacks)  I picked this book because I had seen it on several must read lists.

I do recommend it especially for any one in leadership or a business where you have  to communicate your message to others.  It was particularly enjoyable at this time because of the elections and the messages the candidates are trying to communicate through lots of words and deeds.  The guys said in our group last night they have had fun grading the candidates and their presentations.  We had a good time discussing the book and since there are several lists and great points I will be sharing some of them over a few blog entries.

In the intro, Luntz points out that “You can have the best message in the world, but the person on the receiving end will always understand it through the prism of his or her own emotions, preconceptions, prejudices, and preexisting beliefs.  It is not enough to be correct or reasonable or even brilliant.”  You have to put yourself in the shoes of your listener if you want the listener to hear and understand what you want to communicate.

Words that work, “…not only explain but also motivate.  They cause you to think as well as act.  They trigger emotions as well as understanding.”

I, as a leader,  have learned the hard way that knowing and feeling deeply what you are trying to communicate is less than half of the problem.  People “inevitably interpret, indeed sometimes shift and distort, our original meeting.”

Chapter one is “The Ten Rules of Effective Language“.

  1. Simplicity: Use small words:  The more simply and plainly an idea is presented, the more understandable it is…
  2. Brevity:  Use short sentences
  3. Credibility is as important as philosophy.  The words you use become you–and you become the words you use.  Companies often commit the same mistake.  They launch “new and improved” items every day to get their products noticed.
  4. Consistency Matters
  5. Novelty:  Offer something new.
  6. Sound and texture matter.  A string of words that have the same first letter, the same sound, or the same syllabic cadence is more memorable than a random collection of sounds.
  7. Speak aspirationally.  Messages need to say what people want to hear.  It sells the you you want to be…smarter, sexier, whatever…..
  8. Visualize.  Paint a vivid picture.
  9. Ask a Question.  Making a statement in the form of a rhetorical question makes the reaction personal–and personalized communication is the best communication.
  10. Provide context and explain relevance.   You have to give people the “why” of the message before you tell them the “therefore” and the “so that”.