I was lucky to attend the TED conference this past week, where there are always some unexpected sources of wisdom and insight. If you had asked me to name the most likely source of connection and de-partisanship to be encountered during the gathering, I would not have guessed Frank Luntz, policial advisor and commentator. But there he was, talking about the gaps between what we say and what others hear, and offering specific advice for language that is less divisive and dismissive.
One of his notes was about the language of sustainability, so of course I was all ears. Sustainable business and investing endeavors have long been held back by our own language, by creating a jumble of competing terms, individually imperfect and collectively confusing. Just like many others, I prefer my own special quirky terms like resilience and regeneration — but our marketing team has dismissed these wonky and hard-to-say options – understandably so. They don’t yet have the zing of the “er’s” that Luntz suggested:
These are all more inspiring and connective terms than sustainable, he concludes – and we can see why. Who wants the status quo? Who wants “do no harm,” when our aspirations are so much higher than that? As he spoke I was reminded of a dear friend and mentor, who advised me years ago to avoid preaching sermons or pitching ideas, and instead to “throw a better party!” Do something so obviously awesome, she said, that everyone will want to join in. No words required.
So, dear friends, let’s think, what’s our “er”?
As many of us gather with friends and family this weekend,
Let’s speak in words that can be heard.
Let’s listen for what’s really being said.
* On a somewhat related note, I was hosted recently by Patrick O’Shaughnessey for his podcast, Invest Like the Best. Patrick is an unusual and generous interviewer, thoughtfully prepared and truly curious, and his podcast is consistently thought-provoking. You can find our conversation here: http://investorfieldguide.com/collins/