In his presentation on crisis communication, Lukaszeweski said problems in the work environment often center on the language people use. He attributes 90 percent of problems to verbal attacks. Employees are not physically injured, he said, it’s a “verbal crime,” a “vocabulary put down.” Being “fired” is the worst. It’s a “lifetime assault.”
Once a person is hurt by language, a friendly gesture may be interpreted as a threat. Advice that is meant well may be considered insulting, and it becomes difficult for the receiver to get over the remark.
An investigator seeking to help a company improve will listen to the way people talk and write, and make a diagnosis. People feel betrayed if they are confronted with language that is abusive, arrogant, belittling, callous, dissociable, negligent, or filled with sarcasm and shame. In planning for a crisis, top management should use “simple, sensible, helpful, humane, positive declarative language, calm people down and be helpful. Respond to the people, specifically, immediately with truth, trust, and credibility. Apologize with compassionate language.”
Lukaszeweski suggested that leaders “need to learn how to talk and behave again. Negative language affects what you do. It is destructive and confusing. Negative language never gets to TRUTH.” He suggests that leaders talk less and tell more stories. Use plain language to be memorable. Be brief: have a beginning, a middle, and an end. Be positive. Have a punch line, one with a self-evident truth.
In constructing, the “perfect apology," Lukaszeweski suggests:
(1) “Here’s what we learned;” (2) “How we’re going ‘to do it’ or ‘change’;” (3) Penance: Restitution (will be a cost to YOU); (4) Our request to be forgiven – sets the moral tone for the response. Pay attention to the victims and resolve the situation.
To promote better communicating, Lukaszeweski shared copies of his “Bad News Eradicator” which lists positive phrasing to replace commonly used negative phrasing. For example: instead of “don’t hesitate to call,” use “please call.” Instead of “I don’t know,” say, “Here’s what I know.” Lukaszeweski says, “Eradicate the use of criticism. It is sticky and negative. Be constructive; being positive will change people.”
Submitted by Delores Pavicic