Why Words Matter: Getting Your Message Through in a Cluttered World

July 13, 2023

People are pulled in all different directions these days, so there is no shortage of distractions competing for everyone’s time and attention. In short, we are all faced with the challenge of processing (and retaining) much more information in a day or year than what earlier generations might have encountered during an entire lifetime.

As a result, whether it is in the workplace or your personal life, connecting with people – and getting them to even pay attention – can be surprisingly difficult even though most of us have access to more methods and channels of communication than ever before. 

Here are some interesting things to consider regarding today’s world, as researched online. Studies show that:

  • We speak about 7,000 to 10,000 words per day, and this does not include the words we write or text (Note: the average teenager texts 100 times per day!).
  • We each read or hear roughly 100,000 words daily.
  • We spend about 70-80% of our day engaged in some form of communication, and about 55% of this is devoted to listening, though most people only remember about 17-25% of the things they listen to.
  • We process as much as 74 GB of information daily through TV, computers, cell phones, tablets, billboards, books, etc., which is the equivalent of watching 16 movies or reading J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, a 95,356-word classic. Only 500 years ago, this same amount of information would have been what a highly educated person would have consumed through books and stories during their lifetime. 
  • We each have the equivalent of more than 500,000 books stored on our computers, and this does not include all of the information stored on our cell phones or other devices.
  • In 2011, alone, Americans took-in five times as much information daily as they did in 1986, which is the equivalent of 174 newspapers.  

Though adding – arguably unnecessarily – to the information you are currently processing today, the above is meant to provide context to the challenge we all face, whether it be professionally or personally, in today’s crowded, highly-connected, information-rich environment. Simply put, people are literally bombarded by all types of information, so what you say, how you say it and the means by which you deliver ANY message all need to be considered if any level of success is desired.

A few tips on breaking through today’s “information log jam”:

Keep it short and simple – Less is more, and more is not always better. If you already know people have to sift through volumes of information daily, do not add to the problem. Keep your communications short and make sure the message you are sending fits the platform being used.

Get to the point – If you are trying to get someone’s attention, get to the point and be clear and concise in what you are trying to convey. There is no need for long lead-ins or mindless chit chat that diminishes the important point(s) you are trying to make.  

Choose your words carefully – Use language that is easy to understand and that cannot be misinterpreted. This does not mean your communication has to be cold or read like a legal brief. You can lighten things up and use language that fits your personal style, but making sure you are using the right tone and approach is important if you want people to pay attention and retain what you are communicating. 

Do not rely on one method – If someone does not respond to a text, then send them an email. If email does not work, then try something novel, like actually calling them on the phone! The point is you need to find the best way to reach your intended audience(s), so using more than one tool at your disposal should always be considered if successful communication is the desired outcome. 

Blog by Mark Yontz