Words and their effects on us fascinate me. They're central to almost everything we do, yet we so often struggle to get them right. This simple fact lies at the heart of a huge number of misunderstandings, conflicts and failures in relationships – at work and at home.
This is true not just of speaking but of written communication. These days, writing is what we spend most of our working lives doing, given our reliance on text, email, social media and instant-message platforms like Slack or Yammer. And the business world produces around half a billion documents every year. Every single one of those is an opportunity either to build a relationship or to damage it – perhaps fatally.
This is what drives me to spend most of my time these days on research in this area, sorting fact from pure fiction and sharing the results. I started my professional life as a molecular biologist, and I’m still a scientist at heart. So it bothers me that so much of what passes for communication advice seems to be based on little more than pseudoscience and wishful thinking. Worse, most people receive no training at all in this area. They just muddle along and wonder why their ambitions are continually frustrated. Written communication is usually seen as something we can just do. But the evidence just doesn’t support this.
The company I set up in 1998 has so far enabled more than 50,000 people in 32 countries to tackle this problem head on. (See below.) I work with amazing, dedicated colleagues and I still love what I do, even after 21 years.