It’s not all about you

Man adjusting his tie in a mirrorWe’ve all been there: in that slightly hazy moment of listening to others blather on, while we wonder if they’ll ever stop talking about themselves.

People like this are annoying. So are the people who communicate like this.

No matter who your audience is – members, voters or the general public – they’re more likely to listen if you avoid talking about yourself all the time. And that means talking less about policy and process, and more about people and values.

The fact is, your job likely does involve a lot of process – whether it is writing policy or legislation, negotiating detailed contracts, or working with a wide variety of third-party agencies. But when it comes to talking about your job, you’re better served to skip over the “how” and instead focus on the “why” and the “for whom.”

What does that mean in practical terms?

When it comes to the work of unions, sometimes we hear people saying things like “We’re negotiating with WCB and the employer for changes to workplace safety regulations.”

What’s wrong with that? Well, it’s about the process, the governing bodies and the policy. But it’s missing the people you’re helping and the reason it’s important.

Instead, try saying “We’re working hard to make sure the men and women who work on our construction sites are safer. Because their families deserve to know they’ll make it home each and every night.”

This can be tricky when it comes to legislation and politics too. Legislation might be how you get the job done, but it often misses the emotional mark that makes your communication more powerful.

So, instead of, “We’re introducing legislation that will address pollution levels and their affect on our water resources and air quality,” try “We have legislation ready that will make the water your kids swim in safer, and the air your grandparents breathe cleaner.”

* * *

It’s all about making sure people want to listen to you when you’re talking and that they can hear their concerns reflected in what you say. And that means talking about the work you do in a way that relates to them…not by documenting your own process. It’s how you get the most people to pay attention, and build the most support for your issue or cause.

So, before you put out any communication product – whether it’s a brochure, a speech or a Facebook post – ask yourself this question: are you just talking about yourself and how you do your job, or are you talking about values, people and the reason why your work is important?

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One Response to “It’s not all about you”

  1. […] NOW Communications coworker Kristen Keighley-Wight has a terrific post today about why you need to talk less about yourself, and more about your audience: their values, their […]

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