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The Rules on How to Speak Human

I don’t care what language you speak, who your brand is or what message you’re trying to send, we all need to speak more human (tweet this). Often enough we complicate what we’re trying to say. Ironically, as our world becomes more customer-owned and socially-enabled, we continue to see complicated, redundant, over-technical, and over-thought mass messages getting pushed out – and lost – in the ether. Is it really getting harder to stand out, with so much data and information out there… or is the answer just to clearly say what you mean, in understandable human words?

A couple weeks ago I presented #H2H in my keynote to Bloomberg. When I suggested that “There is no more B2B or B2C, It’s Human to Human #H2H, the audience was gracious enough to tweet this image which launched into what is now over 20 million global impressions, reblogged over a dozen times and shared by over 20k people, that I can tell. I had mostly positive comments and in some sub-groups some negative saying that the process of B2B was different than B2C. I want to clarify that the focus was on the complexities we drive to the end customer in “how” we speak, not “what” we use to speak. I’m suggesting that we need to ALL simplify our approach in how we communicate to who matters most, the customer. And that all starts by speaking human.

Here are 5 rules on how to speak human in business:

It’s the simplicity of our favorite1. KISS – While kissing people may be an easy way to get people’s attention, the act of “Keep It Simple, Stupid” is sometimes the hardest. Enough said.

2. Acronym-less - I can’t tell you how many meetings I’ve been in where acronyms are used so often that my brain ends up spending so much time trying to decipher what they mean instead of focusing on the actual thoughts trying to be conveyed. Acronyms can have their place (see Rule #1 above), but not when they replace communicating information to someone else, who might not understand your word full of capital letters.

3. Swap places - In order to know what will resonate simply with your audience, put yourself in their shoes. What’s the context of their world? If you were them, what would you like to hear? The message has to resonate with them – not necessarily you – to be heard.

4. Gut vs. Fact - Our Chief Creative Officer, Courtney Smith, always says “Market to the heart, and sell to the head.” People love facts, and statistics are great proof points when you’re selling. But in my experience, my gut is the only indicator to leading innovation. Your gut will tell you if something’s too risky. It will drive exhilaration when you throw caution to the wind. It will be the first to start a sentence with “Wouldn’t it be cool if…?!” And although I strongly encourage you to balance the two – your head and your heart – when in doubt, go with your gut. It’s never wrong.

5. G to the P - Whether you are reading this as a brand or a person, just get to the point. We’re all busy. We care about a lot of stuff. Just do less talking and more listening. This applies to messaging, content, conversations – and relationships. 

KEY TAKEAWAY: It’s the simplicity of our favorite communicators, brands and products that make us fall in love with them, because we get what they’re saying. It takes a lot of hard work to make something so complex look so easy. Some call it brilliance… but perhaps we should call it speaking human.

I would love your thoughts or questions about this post, please jot it below. Also, be the first to receive each blog post by signing up at the top right of this page. Cheers! 

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  • hailley's picture
    Feb 8 Posted 3 years ago hailley

    Amazing post! I've been thinking about this for a little while now so it was amazing to see your thoughts developed so throughoutly! For me the point came where I was scrolling through my Twitter feed and all of the Tweets I saw looked like robots had constructed them. After that, I started experiementing with only using hashtags when they were relevant, not hashtagging every word, and only using a link if I needed to. It felt more like conversation and less mechanic that way. 

  • mrmoore1978's picture
    Feb 8 Posted 3 years ago mrmoore1978

    So simple and So true Bryan. I've been working with several fast growing Silicon Valley start-ups in the past month, and one in particular used so many acronyms that I felt exactly as you said in Rule #2. I'm spending time trying to remember all the different acronyms being thrown around that it started to become a test of my memory. It wasn't a good use of the little brain power I have!

    It really is genius to make something complicated understandable and simple to the audience listening. The genius of it, in my opinion, is that making it about 'you' and not about 'me' is against our human nature. And to keep it simple, is always about the other person. The change of mindset needs change from "get" and "talk" to "give" and "listen". Great article Bryan. 

    Ahmad Moore


  • Feb 8 Posted 3 years ago Madhava Verma D...

    Very interesting persceptive of the article. I believe that it's Human can do the wonders as it will have face to the branding via social.

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