Does Your Business-Speak Sound Like Spam? Here’s Help

3 min read · 7 years ago



That leaders need to adapt to the digital age and adopt digital communications is the case made by a new book we reported on here yesterday. But lessons from two other new business communications books might be better learned first. After all, if you’re a poor communicator to begin with, it’s unlikely digital tools are going to change that.

Columbia Business School social psychologist Heidi Grant Halvorson asks, “Have you ever had the feeling that you’re just not getting through to the person you’re talking with, or coming across the way you intended to?” Her book, “No One Understands You and What to Do About It,” due out in April from Harvard Business Review Press, aims to help readers see how they’re being perceived—in interviews, sales calls, or every day interactions with bosses and coworkers—and alter their words and actions to send the right signals.

“Without the ability to consistently and accurately telegraph our thoughts and intentions to others, none of us can succeed—no individual, no team, and no organization,” Halvorson writes. Case in point: She opens the book with the example of Chip Wilson, the Lululemon Athletica founder who was forced to step down from his chairmanship after a TV interview in which he blamed customers’ thick thighs for a fabric-pilling-problem with his company’s yoga pants.

“Statistically speaking,” Halvorson writes, “there are only weak correlations between how others see us and how we believe we are seen. And while I don’t actually know what your colleagues, your partner, or anyone else thinks of you, I do know that you don’t know either.”

To help readers get a clue, Halvorson assigns four exercises: understand how perception works; see how it shapes biases; explore how perceivers’ personalities influence what they see and how they see it; and discuss how to correct bad impressions, overcome misunderstanding, and apologize effectively.

Phil Simon’s new book, “Message Not Received: Why Business Communication is Broken and How to Fix It,” out this week from Wiley, tackles another reason for failed communications in the work world: Jargon. “If bad business communication is a disease, then the prevalence of hackneyed and utterly meaningless terms is just one of its major symptoms,” Simon’s book jacket proclaims.

Listeners and readers alike tune out quickly when the noise is techno babble, acronyms, buzzwords, and tired terms like “paradigm shift,” “synergy,” “net-net,” “form factor,” and “optics.” Thus, the central premise of Simon’s book: “Most business communication simply doesn’t work.”

Simon, a management consultant and technology expert, has another pet peeve. “Not only are too many people in business talking without speaking, they are relying far too much on a single communications vehicle—e-mail,” he writes. His book, like the one we reported on yesterday, demonstrates “how intelligent professionals and organizations are embracing simpler language and new technologies.”

If you’re not familiar with communication and collaboration tools like  JiveX, HipChat, Slack, Yammer, GetSatisfaction, Salesforce Communities, Lithium, Discourse, Drupal Commons via Acquia, Microsoft Office 365, Sharepoint, IBM Verse, Convo, or Facebook at Work—all apps that Simon says are designed to improve upon e-mail for business communications—then you are likely not communicating at work as effectively as you could, or worse, your messages are ending up in your recipients’ mental spam filters.