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What More Can I Say?: Why Communication Fails and What to Do About It

What More Can I Say?: Why Communication Fails and What to Do About It

by Dianna Booher


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An essential guidebook for honing business communication skills...


Communications expert Dianna Booher provides an essential nine-point checklist for success in the art of communication and persuasion—for building solid relationships, and for increasing credibility in the workplace. With lessons from politics, pop culture, business, family life, and current events, the book identifies common reasons that communicators fail to accomplish their goals, along with examples and analyses of messages that succeed and those that fail.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780735205338
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 01/06/2015
Pages: 176
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 7.30(h) x 0.60(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Dianna Booher is a business communication strategist, speaker, and author of numerous books. She’s the recipient of an American Library Association’s Best Nonfiction of the Year award, a member of the Speaker Hall of Fame, and one of Successful Meeting magazine’s “Top 21 Speakers for the 21St Century.”  Her consulting firm, Booher Research Institute, works with more than a third of the Fortune 500 companies to improve their communication.

Read an Excerpt

It’s Not What You Think

You can change your world by changing your words. . . . Remember, death and life are in the power of the tongue.

—Joel Osteen

Phil’s name sounded vaguely familiar. A quick Internet search confirmed the connection: Our paths had crossed about twenty years earlier at a client organization. His interview for my company’s general manager position ended up more like a college reunion. We reminisced about mutual friends in the business, swapped client names, and bemoaned travel mishaps.

“So why do you want to go to work for me?” I ask him. “Your LinkedIn page says you’re vice president of marketing for some company.”

“That’s only part-time right now. The new company I’m with is just a little ahead of the market. I need something else to bridge that gap before they can afford to hire me full-time.”

“Tell me about the new business, then.”

His eyes light up like a Christmas tree, and he launches into an explanation about the new venture. He’s working for a Hollywood movie producer, who has a few sideline businesses of play-on-demand movies in hotel chains. They produce 3-D programming sold to networks such as ESPN, Hallmark, and Disney.

“Got any reality TV shows in mind?” he asks offhandedly as he ends his tale.

“As a matter of fact, I do.” I toss out a concept that had occurred to me while writing my last book.

“Hmmm. That could work. Seriously. I’ll pass the idea on to Barry if you want me to. He’s in LA this week. Have you been to Universal Studios? Amazing place. Anyway. Barry makes all those show decisions. I don’t get into that. I just sell the programming into the hotels once the shows are shot. Occasionally, I go on one of the funding meetings—if they’re close by. Like a couple of weeks ago. Barry got a few doctors in a room. Pitched them on a new series he’s doing. Twenty-five minutes. They all invested $50,000, and that was enough to put the first series in the can. . . . But it’s unusual for me to go.”

We talk a little further about the general manager’s job. But I quickly decide it’s a no-go. He’s a nice guy, but I need a long-termer in the position.

A week later Phil calls again. “Barry will be back from LA tomorrow afternoon. I mentioned your reality TV show to him. He wants to talk to you. Can you meet with him tomorrow at two?”

“Sure.” Actually, I hadn’t given the idea another minute’s thought since Phil had left my office a week earlier. But I spend the rest of the day and evening writing up a treatment.

The next day Barry, Phil, and I meet in my office. We trade background information. Barry tells me about the movies he and his business partner have produced—a long string of titles that I recognize immediately. Then he overviews several reality TV shows they are currently shooting.

At this point, I decide to show him the two-page concept that I’d drafted.

He skims it, then looks up. “I like it.”

“So you would be expecting me to invest in this show?”

“No. That’s my job—to raise the funding. We would own the show together and split the net profits fifty-fifty.”

My first thought: Maybe he’s taking money out of the proceeds, so that there is no profit. “Could you forward a typical production budget for my review?” His assistant does so the next day.

Over the next few weeks, we meet several times to discuss the specifics of the deal. On one occasion, he brings his son with him, who is working on a documentary for the History Channel.

Barry agrees to add every clause and safeguard I propose into our written contract. He reports that a couple of networks have already expressed interest in my concept, and he has an investor for our first $60,000.

“So when are we going to start shooting the pilot?” I ask.

“As soon as I finish up the series I’m on—end of December.”

December comes and goes. “So are you ready to schedule the pilot? I need to line up the talent. They travel frequently, so I need to nail down dates with them.”

“We have to have at least $50- to $60,000 to shoot the sizzle reel and pilot.” He explains where he thinks he can cut $10,000 out of the budget by using a simpler set and a local crew.

Budget-conscious. I like that.

Joe, Barry’s show runner, calls me from Hollywood to begin discussing details: run time, music, on-camera talent, potential product placements, website, and so forth.

“So don’t we have funding already committed—at least for the pilot?” I ask the next time Barry stops by the office. “I thought you said an investor had already committed $60,000?”

“He backed out.” Long pause, then, “But I’m still committed to the idea. We’ll get it done. We just need $50- to $60,000 to get started.

“Look, no need to be disappointed. We’re busy now anyway. I’m shooting two other projects. There’s no hurry with me. Unless you’re in a hurry?”

“It’s just that Joe has already asked me to schedule the talent, and the three contestants can be available to record this month—but I don’t know about later.”

“Then, look, my company will put up half of the $50,000 if you will put up the other half,” Barry offers.

“Well, I didn’t plan to invest any money in this myself.”

“I understand. That’s completely your choice. We’ll just keep working on getting investors as we’d planned, then. And if you know of friends or colleagues who might like to invest, let me know. Whatever you’re comfortable with.”

I do more checking on Barry. One of his companies appears to have a contract with a pro sports team. The other company’s website is announcing the new forthcoming 3-D series programming, featuring a legendary sports figure as its star. Two more series are listed as “forthcoming.”

I write out the $25,000 check and phone him. He promises to stop by and pick it up on his next visit by the end of the week.

Joe in LA becomes the point man. I get a text message at nine a.m. “Late night. Will call you later today.” No call. Next day an email would come in at eight p.m. “Sorry. Got held up in a long script meeting. Will call Thursday.” On Thursday: “Have the flu. Think I’m going to rest over the weekend. Let’s talk on Monday.” On Monday: “No point in talking without the producer, and his current job is running over a couple of days. I’ll try to set up a conference call after he’s finished with this client.” Next, Joe has a bad auto accident.

You know the end of this story: Barry disappeared. Phil protested innocence, and then stopped returning calls—from me or my attorney. Joe’s two-line “obituary” appeared in the Los Angeles Times a few weeks later.

By nature, I’m a skeptical soul. So why begin this book by telling this tale of getting scammed? My point: Building trust and persuading people to do something can be quite easy if you know what you’re doing.

That’s both good and bad. It’s good if you have a person or group’s best interest at heart. It’s bad if you have selfish or sinister motives in mind.

Good communicators influence people in subtle ways. They find common ground, build rapport over a long period of time, and strive to appear trustworthy. They never act like the stereotypical aggressive con artist you see in the sitcoms.

(For an analysis of all the steps Barry and Phil took to win my trust—and the trust of many others, as I later discovered from articles on the Internet about prior convictions and prison time—see the next chapter on trust.)

The more popular word of the past few years has been influence. But whatever term you prefer, communication is essentially about making things happen, getting action, changing behavior, or changing minds. Changing someone’s mind from negative to neutral about you, a cause, or an issue may be the biggest shift of all.

In short, communicating, especially at work, is purposeful. Sure, you also communicate to inform or educate—but usually the result of that informative message or education is to influence someone to do something or change something.

The same is true in your personal life—but with an additional purpose. At home, you communicate to change relationships—strengthen them, deepen them, move them off dead center, test them, improve them, enrich them, or end them.

Yet people communicate every day to make things happen or to get a point across. They say they want to:

   •  “sell an idea”
   •  “increase their impact”
   •  “recruit top talent to come to work for their organization”
   •  “educate consumers about the advantages of their products”
   •  “sway members to support their position”
   •  “urge employees to cooperate with the new policy”
   •  “inspire others to peak performance”
   •  “encourage people to donate generously”

However they phrase it, their goal is to persuade or influence. In fact, some people hesitate to use the word persuade because it has taken on an almost pejorative meaning—the motif of manipulator from the movies. Persuading is not a dirty word. It’s not about manipulation. It’s a neutral word. Whether it’s good or bad depends on intellectual honesty, choice, purpose, and outcome.

Intellectual honesty: Is it misleading or deceptive?

Choice: Do people have real choices about complying?

Purpose: Is it harmful? In whose best interest is it?

Outcome: What is the effect of the choice, decision, or change?

Most people equate communicating persuasively with talking someone into doing something. But talking is just a small step in the process—or may not be a part of the process at all.

Persuading is primarily about thinking. Talking is one way to communicate some of your thinking or one way to find how other people think, so that you know how to approach them to change their thinking.

The Big Challenge

Are most people eager to be persuaded, moved to action, or changed?

Empirical evidence says no. The vast majority of people (88 percent) report that they break their New Year’s resolution before the end of January.1 And New Year’s resolutions are usually changes people decide they want to make themselves! So, clearly, whether they’re talking about getting physically fit, financially fit, or mentally fit, people do not find change easy.

People openly resist being persuaded. They record their favorite TV programs in order to fast-forward through commercials. When the sales associate in the store says, “May I help you?” they automatically say, “No, I’m just looking”—even if two minutes later they ask for help to find something.

My point—and the challenge: People have become overburdened with information, are skeptical of spin, and are wary of those trying to persuade them to do anything.

At the same time, more and more people are trying to break through with a message. We want to influence others to do something. Those who earn a living in sales remain a steady and significant part of the workforce—manufacturers reps, Realtors, social media marketers, pharmaceutical sales reps, financial advisors, and consultants.

And of course if you’re in a service business (entrepreneurs, IT consultants, attorneys, accountants, dentists, freelance writers), you’ve always depended on selling skills to make a success of the venture. Influencing others to hire, sign a contract, or make a decision on the next project proves crucial to your success.

Good communication may not make a risky project sound safe, but poor communication may fail to convey the benefits of a good project or good deal.

We’re All in the Fishbowl

Another reason for your communication to be intentionally persuasive is this: You will succeed or fail in a very public way. It seems as though everybody has become a publisher! Even my eighty-nine-year-old mom is on Facebook. The masses have gained access to the Internet. After all, what else can you do with people on the other side of the globe that’s fun, free, and fast except blast out your thoughts on everything from world peace to weight loss? Posts on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, and blogs have become as much a daily habit as eating. Smartphones seem to be an extension of the human hand. Text messages can be received instantaneously around the world.

The self-publishing phenomenon blasts out even more persuasive messages: e-books, white papers, reports, webinars, videos on YouTube and Vimeo. Everywhere you turn, people are screaming at you to pay attention to their ideas: Do this, don’t do that, buy this, attend that, believe that, adopt this strategy, discover the secret to X. They either love your ideas—or hate them. They either affirm you and your approaches or debunk them—loudly and publicly.

So, from CEO to entry-level employee, from soccer parent to retired golfer, we all live in a fishbowl now. A hallway conversation can be captured on someone’s cell phone, posted online, and go viral in a matter of seconds, and as a result, careers and earnings take a nosedive. CEOs can’t hide in the corner office with an assistant to shelter them from the world. Teachers no longer rule their classroom when students can flip out their cell phones and push the Record button. Employees can no longer claim innocence when a colleague whistle-blower can tweet evidence.

Once words leave your mouth, credibility goes either up or down. Trust remains stable, grows, or plunges.

All the raw ingredients of communication (words, body language, emotion, logic, action, inaction, listening, branding, perception, structure, and so forth) produce change—either positive or negative.

The Nine Core Principles of Persuasive Communication

This bookpresents nine core principles of persuasive communication. As we move through each chapter, you’ll see what causes communication to fail and what makes communication succeed in changing behavior or changing minds:

The Law of Trust vs. Distrust

The Law of Collaboration vs. Monologue

The Law of Simplicity vs. Complexity

The Law of Tact vs. Insensitivity

The Law of Potential vs. Achievement

The Law of Distinction vs. Dilution

The Law of Specificity vs. Generalization

The Law of Emotion vs. Logic

The Law of Perspective vs. Distortion

I’ll examine each of these core principles and explain how to apply them practically so that you can use them immediately to get your point across, bring about change, inspire others to take action, encourage your family member or team, or sell a product or service more successfully.

That’s our mission in the following pages.

—Dianna Booher

Table of Contents

It's Not What You Think vii

1 The Law of Trust vs. Distrust 1

2 The Law of Collaboration vs. Monologue 16

3 The Law of Simplicity vs. Complexity 35

4 The Law of Tact vs. Insensitivity 55

5 The Law of Potential vs. Achievement 69

6 The Law of Distinction vs. Dilution 77

7 The Law of Specificity vs. Generalization 93

8 The Law of Emotion vs. Logic 114

9 The Law of Perspective vs. Distortion 134

A Final Word 144

Next Steps 147

Acknowledgments 148

Resources 150

Notes 153

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

“Dianna Booher has done it again! What More Can I Say is the definitive book on the hows and whys of communicating effectively. I’ve always said leadership is an influence process—and to influence others, you have to know how to get your point across clearly. What more can I say, other than ‘Read this brilliant book!’
––Ken Blanchard, coauthor of The One Minute Manager® and Legendary Service

“To be a success you need to influence others, communicate persuasively and win the hearts and minds of those around you. Dianna Booher can give you the expert advice you need to succeed.”
––Darren Hardy, publisher and editor of SUCCESS Magazine and New York Times Bestselling Author of The Compound Effect

“Dianna Booher may have accomplished the impossible. By following the tactics revealed in What More Can I Say?, you will communicate in a way that creates a dynamic engagement with others after which all parties walk away satisfied and smiling. Excellent work from one of today’s most important communication experts.”
––Marshall Goldsmith, author or editor of 34 books including the global bestsellers MOJO and What Got You Here Won’t Get You There.

“Booher’s What More Can I Say? does say it all in a way that’s relevant, specific, compelling, and credible.”
––Ralph D. Heath, former Executive Vice President, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company

“This is a wonderful book, fast-moving and enjoyable, loaded with practical ideas to make you a more influential and powerful communicator.”
––Brian Tracy, author, The Power of Charm

“Useful and precise, this guide explains how to turn communication failures into communication successes in a variety of situations.”
—Library Journal


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