uninspiring communication

Bob was clearly frustrated. “I keep telling them, but nobody listens,” he fumed. As we looked at his 360 feedback on his communication practices, it was clear why nobody was listening to him. Bob’s communication skills were awful.


Bob scored quite high on technical expertise and analytical skills. A big part of his communication problem was that Bob believed logical arguments were all he needed. But his analytical approach often created an emotional tone that felt cold and uncaring. His feedback showed Bob often didn’t try to learn from others or understand their point of view.


In his book, Working with Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goleman writes, “No matter how intellectually brilliant we may be, that brilliance will fail to shine if we are not persuasive. That is particularly true in fields where entry has high hurdles for cognitive abilities, like engineering and science, medicine and law, and executive ranks in general.” As Bernard Baruch, American financier and government advisor, once said, “The ability to express an idea is well nigh as important as the idea itself.”


This month’s Harvard Business Review features an article on “The Science of Strong Business Writing” by author and writing coach, Bill Birchard. He writes, “Brain scans are showing us in new detail exactly what entices readers…Whether you’re crafting an email to a colleague or an important report for the board, you can write in a way that delights readers on a primal level, releasing pleasure chemicals in their brains.”

Birchard has found these “eight S’s to be the hallmarks of the best writing. And scientific evidence backs up their power.”

Simplicity — short sentences, familiar words, and clean syntax. Use the active voice and cut to the key points (don’t perpetuate polysyllabic obfuscation!).

Specificity — use vivid, palpable language such as punchy phrases.

Surprise — make your message stick with novelty and unexpected content or unusual wordplay.

Stirring Language — make emotional connections followed by logic.

Seductiveness — draw readers in by rousing their curiosity and anticipation.

Smart Thinking — create “aha” moments with fresh distinctions and new insights.

Social Content — include human angles with vivid, down-to-earth descriptions. Talk to the reader with second person “you” language.

Storytelling — relevant and moving anecdotes, examples, and stories can bring the above points alive.

Executive educator, bestselling author, and professor of leadership, Jay Conger, reports from his decades of communication research,

“We have found that the most effective persuaders use language in a particular way.  They supplement numerical data with examples, stories, metaphors, and analogies to make their positions come alive.  That use of language paints a vivid word picture and, in doing so, lends a compelling and tangible quality to the persuader’s point of view.”

Communion and communication share the same roots. Oxford dictionary defines communion as “the sharing or exchanging of intimate thoughts and feelings, especially on a mental or spiritual level.” This deeper connection is what people are craving today in workplaces with a higher purpose.

Is your communication lifting people to a higher level? How do you know?