Research reported in the NY Times demonstrates that it is the quality of the words we use and hear as children that determines our conversational fluency as a child.
Earlier studies had shown that low income kids heard 30 million fewer words by the time they were three and as a result had poorer fluency. The new study debunks that.
My interest is not so much in this study but rather in what we can learn as leaders> How many of us have experienced the leader that gives us lots and lots of information and then some more information? What happens if the leader chooses higher quality words?
I am reminded of a story where in WWII the administration was concerned about night-time bombings so they drafted a memo that read:
Such preparation shall be made as will completely obscure all Federal Buildings, occupied by the Federal Government, during an air raid for any period of time from visibility by reason or internal or external illumination. Such obscuration may be obtained by means of blackout construction or by termination of illumination. This will, of course, require that in building areas in which work must continue during the blackout, construction must be provided so that internal illumination will continue. Other areas may be obscured by termination of illumination.
The President read the memo and edited it to read:
In case of an air raid, turn out the lights. If you have to keep working, put something over the windows.
Look at all the big words and quantity of words in the first draft. Yet how much more powerful is the second draft? We do not always need to demonstrate our verbal prowess (the size of our vocabulary). Often times when we simplify the message and get to the point we are much more powerful.
Sometimes Less is More
Becoming more productive and effective through creative subtraction. Nice message John!