Fear and Business Communications?

Posted: June 28, 2011 in Communication, Personal Accountability
Tags: ,

Inspired by Seth Godin’s June 27, 2011 blog: Writing naked (nakeder than Orwell)‏

Why is most business writing so awful? The simple answer is fear. Organizational structures represent levels of power and privilege. Your rewards are not in your control. They reside within the minds and decisions of others.

The logic of worldly success rests on a fallacy—the strange error that our perfection depends on the thoughts and opinions and applause of other men.  A weird life it is to be living always in somebody else’s imagination, as if that were the only place in which one could become real.  ~ Thomas Merton

Language is the primary encoder of our messages, between our thoughts and the minds of others. Ineffective language weakens and distorts ideas.

People are afraid to say what they mean, because they might be criticized for it. Afraid to be misunderstood, to be accused of saying what they didn’t mean, because they might be [wrongly judged]  for it. ~ Seth Godin

George Orwell had a passion for clear, simple writing.  Below is his guidance from the Remedy of Six Rules.  The rules have been edited by Seth Godin using Orwell’s own rules.

1. Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.  You don’t need cliches.

2. Never use a long word where a short one will do.  Avoid long words.

3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.

4. Never use the passive where you can use the active.  Write in the now.

5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.  When in doubt, say it clearly.

6. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.  Better to be interesting than to follow these rules.

This example illustrates that clear, simple writing is not easy. Orwell acknowledged his own shortcomings and once wrote, “Look back through this essay and for certain you will find that I have again and again committed the very faults I am protesting against.”

I am sure I have done the same in this blog.

If the goal is to communicate, then say what you mean. Say it simply and clearly. Say it without fear of misunderstanding or negative feedback, and say it without being boring.

But when it comes to complex ideas, don’t forget Einstein ’s advice. “Makes things as simple as possible, but not one bit simpler.”

You may have to use Rule 6.

Incite:  What would you call the fear that exists in the presence of power within an organization?   Does it really affect how we communicate?

  1. Rubi says:

    Oh how true! Fear keeps me from writing every day… You may have helped me with this blog. Thanks.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s