What should I say?

This is a question we’ve all grappled with on countless occasions. Whether it is an internal announcement at a staff meeting, an interview with a journalist, or conveying a difficult conversation with a colleague. We have all asked ourselves, what should I say?

If it is a particularly difficult or important communication, you might have spent a few hours or even days considering what you want to say. You might have written out and subsequently crossed out several different versions of your speech. Honing and perfecting what you want to say.

If like me you work in communications then helping advise your clients on what to say is something you do day in, day out. The challenge I find is that as you get more practised at this, there’s a risk you become very mechanical. You work out your key messages, and then you pull them together into a neat little package. But this approach focuses on what you want to say without adequately considering your audience.

Knowing what to say might seem obvious. All you have to do is think what do I want to communicate. Right? Not in my experience. Instead, what you should be asking yourself is ‘what do I want my audience to think and feel?’.

By asking yourself ‘what do I want my audience to think and feel?’, you put yourself into an audience-focused state of mind. This forces you to be empathic with your audience, to consider where their head might be at today, and what you need to say to get the reaction you are looking for.

Sure, you might get lucky if you focus on what you want to say, but your chances of successfully influencing your audience are much higher if you frame your message based on what you want your audience to think and feel. I also find this approach is much more efficient because the discipline of asking what you want your audience to think and feel is such that it grounds you and puts you in your audiences’ shoes.

So next time you are wondering ‘what to say’, instead ask yourself ‘what do I want my audience to think and feel?’.