Why a Good Message Isn’t Enough

It happens every week. A leader, trainer, or even a salesperson has to deliver an important message. In this message, there is a dire need for change, an outline of why the change is needed, and even a plan for making the change happen. The person delivering is passionate about what needs to be done and fully believes it will make a difference for the company and all those involved.

Yet, despite the persons preparation and commitment to the idea, they realize halfway through the presentation that no one is listening. They might be paying attention, politely nodding and even responding positively to the message, but everyone in the room knows that no one is going to change any behaviors moving forward.

What happened? Why is no one listening to what you have to say? Why can’t they see how important this is?

While there could be a number of reasons for this lack of engagement, the most likely culprit is your belief that the message matters.

Any message you have to deliver, the message itself is the least most important piece of the puzzle. Certainly, the message seems to be the only reason you are there, it appears to be the purpose of the meeting or training, and the message can even feel like the thing that will make a difference for those listening.

But it’s not.

The message itself only matters if people are going to do something with it. If they are going to change their mind about something, alter their behavior towards something, or begin utilizing the new and different idea in your message. If causing something to change isn’t the most important piece of the puzzle, then save yourself some time and deliver the message via email.  If the logic is the most compelling piece, just send it via memo. If you are so sure the message will carry the weight of change, why do you even need to be in the room?

People are not logical. At least, when it comes to initial behavior change, the decision-making process is emotional first and logical second. What this means, quite simply, is that people generally don’t buy into a message, engage a concept, or change a behavior because of the message itself. We buy in, engage, and change because of the delivery.

You can have the best, more important, most life altering information in the world. Stuff that can change peoples’ future, avoid pitfalls, or even save lives, but if the delivery sucks, it will change nothing.

The upside to all of this is the fact that, while we don’t always have control over the message, we tend to have much more control over the delivery. If we can remember that our message doesn’t matter, then we will likely be emotionally compelled to do the work necessary to improve our delivery of the message.

So, if you ever find yourself in the position of delivering a message and you get the feeling that no one is going to do anything with it…ask yourself how you might improve your delivery. 

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