Choosing Your Words Wisely
Monday, March 21, 2011
Welcome to Politics Bites, where every afternoon at It's A Free Country, we bring you the unmissable quotes from the morning's political conversations on WNYC. Today on the Brian Lehrer Show, Pollster Frank Luntz, consultant and author discussed his new book, Win: The Key Principles to Take Your Business from Ordinary to Extraordinary, which offers insights in choosing key words and phrases to sell products.
According to Frank Luntz, his new book should appeal to liberals and conservatives. He writes about how to communicate more effectively to improve business. He says his rules are the same as you would frame language to support a cause or a politician. First of all, you have to know your audience.
Rule #1 is to know whether the person you're talking to is a friend, a foe or undecided because that will form the context by which you communicate. The second rule is to know how well informed they are because that determines the level of the language that you set, but the words that work in private life are the same words that work in business, in politics.
Here's an example:
"I get it." That phrase, "I get it" communicates, I'm listening, I hear you and I'm going to do something about it..."I get it" stops the conversation and you can then focus on a solution and it's amazing to me how few people use that phrase because it ends the battle and then you start to work together.
Luntz gave more examples: Start a sentence with, "The simple truth" and end a sentence with, "let's get to work." He said the book is filled with this kind of basic language that cuts across partisanship, age and gender differences to help people stop yelling at each other and to communicate properly.
He likes to work for companies that make products he consumes. He then approaches the communication strategy by keeping the consumer perspective in mind, a perspective he knows - not the company perspective. He even does this during an interview.
When I do these interviews, I'm thinking of what I want to communicate to the listener as much as I'm thinking of the questions that you ask me. But it's important because in the end, as much as I want to make you happy with this interview so that you have me back, I also want to ensure that listeners don't click off because then it hurts both of us.
Winning in business requires integrity, Luntz said, but we're dealing with an audience of cynical people — cynical about government and corporations. There are very few things today that Americans aren't cynical about and this is why the words matter, according to Luntz.
They're not hearing what they want to hear and they're not seeing what they want to see so they have a right. I actually would say that people on the left should be mad and people on the right should be mad about what happened in the last five years. It seems like everyone in the elite in America has let people down. But now it's time to stop complaining about it and it's time to start doing something about it and doing it without shouting at each other. You can actually make things happen, you can change the course of your life, of your business, even of your community, your state or your country, but you don't have to do it by yelling at somebody.
At a focus group with the Iowa caucus in February, 10 of 26 Republicans told Luntz they thought President Obama was a Muslim. He says this shows how disconnected a segment from American society is with the president. He'd like to do this kind of focus group with Democrats, too, saying the equivalent myth on the left would be that President Bush had something to do with 9/11.
Luntz also spoke at the California Republican Convention over the weekend and he took an applause poll on presidential hopefuls. Romney and Gingrich got the loudest applause. (Chris Christie fared well too.)
It measures that there are two candidates, that there are two front runners in the Republican battle and that they have the advantage of name ID, but still it's anyone's nomination.