Political Debates, Network News, and Communicating With Skeptics

Political Debates, Network News, and Communicating With Skeptics

Are you tired of reading and hearing politicians and pundits tells us what “the American people want” or what “the American people don’t want”? It’s difficult to find a news publication or political debate without someone waxing eloquently on their understanding of what we, the people, want in the way of tax reform, social security reform, immigration reform, foreign policy, or domestic policy on any number of social or economic issues.

As a communicator, you have the same skeptics as those who watch network news or read these stories online.

Overstatement sets you up for failure.

[Tweet “Overstatement sets you up for failure.”]

Let’s say you’re having lunch with colleagues or clients and someone says, “I heard the funniest story yesterday—you’re not going to believe this. It’s hilarious!”

A typical first reaction from listeners will be, “Oh, yeah? Try me.”  Then after they hear that story, there’s often the letdown—the that-wasn’t-so-funny feeling.  Why? Because overstating the case begs people to be skeptical.

Give your audience (for example, readers of your proposal or listeners in your audience) the facts, and then let THEM tell you how impressed they are.

Unsupported generalizations tend either to push people to the opposite extreme or drag them along screaming.  Consider generalizations the careless person’s habit of writing their “facts” rather than researching them.

  • “As leading experts have noted . . . ” (Who? Where?)
  • “Few will doubt . . .” (If that’s true, why point it out?)
  • “Few will argue with the fact that . . .” (An attempt to keep me from arguing?)
  • “Most users prefer . . .” (Which surveys are you referring to?)
  • “The vast majority of physicians and attorneys today agree that . . . “ (Agree? You’ve got to be kidding!)
  • “Several professors at major universities . . . “ (Right. Like which ones? Your graduate adviser and who else? If they disagree, are they not a major university?)

To sum up about overstatement:  Speakers, writers, consultants, salespeople, engineers, PR specialists, physicians, and attorneys around the globe—in fact, anyone who needs to persuade others as part of their job—will agree that generalizations have no place in ANY serious communication. (Any skeptics regarding this last sweeping generalization? See what I mean about begging you to differ?)

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2018-02-28T21:28:56+00:00 By |2 Comments

About the Author:

Dianna Booher is the bestselling author of 47 books, published in 60 foreign-language editions. She helps organizations to communicate clearly and leaders to expand their influence by a strong executive presence. She speaks on leadership communication and executive presence. Her latest books include Communicate Like a Leader; What MORE Can I Say?; Creating Personal Presence; and Communicate With Confidence. National media such as Good Morning America, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, Investor’s Business Daily, Bloomberg, Forbes.com, Fast Company, FOX, CNN, NPR, Success, and Entrepreneur have interviewed her for opinions on critical workplace communication issues.


  1. Rebecca Barth October 27, 2015 at 12:06 pm

    Excellent point about unsupported generalizations! I hear them frequently in communication, including my own, especially around election time.

    • Dianna Booher October 27, 2015 at 12:41 pm

      You’re way ahead of the game, Rebecca, if you catch your own generalizations. I think many people do not. Good for you!

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