Posted on May 8, 2018

Words That Work Summary

PDF, Chapters & Review of Frank Luntz’ Book

Words That Work

Author: Frank Luntz

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You can have the best message in the world, but the person on the receiving end will always understand it through the prism of his or her own emotions, preconceptions, prejudices, and preexisting beliefs. It’s not enough to be correct or reasonable or even brilliant. The key to successful communication is to take the imaginative leap of stuffing yourself into your listener’s shoes to know what they are thinking and feeling in the deepest recesses of their mind and heart. How that person perceives what you say is even more real, at least in a practical sense, than how you perceive yourself.

The world’s best message is ineffective if the person on the receiving end does not understand or relate to it.

It is a harsh standard. It is a message communicators ignore at their own peril. You can be brilliant, creative, even right, but your message will fall flat unless it touches the hearer’s prism of experience, beliefs, preconceptions, and prejudices.

In Words that Work: It’s Not What You Say, It’s What People Hear, Frank Luntz offers insights into finding and using the right words to achieve your goals. The key to communication is to place yourself in the listener’s situation and understand his or her deepest thoughts and beliefs. What the listener perceives constitutes the listener’s reality.

Based on his experience as a political and corporate pollster he recommends 11 rules for effective communication:

  1. Use small words.
  2. Use short sentences.
  3. Credibility is as important as philosophy.
  4. Consistency matters.
  5. Novelty: offer something new.
  6. Sound and texture matter.
  7. Speak aspirationally.
  8. Visualize.
  9. Ask a question.
  10. Provide context and explain the relevance.
  11. Visual imagery matters.

 

Luntz does not stop there. In addition to an insightful discussion complete with illustrations from his professional experience of the 11 rules, he adds critical elaboration:

  1. Never assume knowledge or awareness.
  2. Get the order right.
  3. Gender can obstruct understanding.
  4. It’s about the children.
  5. How you define determines how you are received.

If communicating is important to you, and who does not need to, then time spent reading Frank Luntz’s book will be well spent. We are all subject to the power of language. Words spell the difference between success and failure. The right words grant you an edge. The author says it all in his subtitle, “It’s not what you say–it’s what people hear.”

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