Monkeying Around With Words

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Words are powerful. They can unite. Motivate. They can hurt. Misrepresent.

Love. Hate. All. None.

In our field, words are the foundation of strategic plans; the essence of key messages and the tools used to convince, sell and explain.

Why then are so many, so quick to treat words as gospel? And why are so many, so quick to spread the words without fully embracing or understanding the ramifications of the words?

Ready, fire, aim.

Recent current events have only solidified trends that have been occurring for years. And social media has kicked it up a notch. How many times have we seen something reported and retweeted only to find out minutes or hours later that it was inaccurate?

But what should we expect? We stretch the truth every day for a myriad of reasons. How often have you been in a meeting where you hear someone say something like, “Nobody understands the message” or “Everyone thinks that is a bad idea.” Really?

Come to find out that the “nobody” was really three emails and “everyone” was a group of people at a happy hour.  In other words, not so much nobody and everyone.

Jon Stewart has said, “If everything is amplified, we hear nothing.”  Amplification occurs when words are used carelessly, without checking the accuracy. We’ve become numb, substituting truth and fairness with being first and whenever possible our take on a particular situation.

The great philosophers Peter, Micky, Davy and Mike once sang, “I remember when the answers seemed so clear; we had never lived with doubt or tasted fear. It was easy then to tell truth from lies; selling out from compromise; who to love and who to hate, the foolish from the wise.”

While I’m certainly not naive to think the world was much clearer years ago, I do think much of society’s quench for 15 minutes of fame has taken the idea of “the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth” to a much broader interpretation. And Facebook, Twitter and social media in general has given us the platform to shine the spotlight large and bright.

I don’t know what the answer is; I do know part of my job is developing compelling messages for appropriate audiences. It can sometimes take me quite some time in determining the right words for the right people. Maybe we’d be better off if we all took a moment to breath before both sending/saying something and considering the source. Maybe not, but at the very least I wrote a blog that included Jon Stewart and the Monkees.

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