The purpose of communication, either oral or written, is to inform, persuade, or influence listeners or readers. Effective communication has three basic components, the premise, arguments supporting the premise, and an inference or conclusion. This formula is easy to use and can be used in business and social situations to influence others to get what you want .
The premise is the main idea you want to communicate. Everything you say or write thereafter should support your premise. The easiest way for people to undermine what you have to say is to attack your premise. If the premise is not strong, you cannot effectively communicate with others, no matter how strong the arguments supporting the premise may be. You must carefully construct your premise to withstand counterarguments, especially from naysayers.
My daughter, age 14 at the time, used a flawed premise to convince my wife and me to buy her a cell phone. Her premise was “I need a cell phone because everyone else in school has one. This premise is flawed because not every student at my daughter’s school has a cell phone; she does not have one. A more effective premise would have been “I want a cell phone.” This premise can withstand counterarguments because this premise is based on a desire versus a fact. No none can refute the fact that my daughter wants a cell phone. In order for my daughter to convince her mom and me to give her a cell phone, my daughter must present arguments supporting her premise without which she is left with an unrequited want. My daughter subsequently changed her premise to “I want a cell phone.” Since I could not present an effective counterargument, I let her present her arguments in support of her premise.
Arguments supporting the premise
If your premise can withstand counterarguments, your next objective is to present strong arguments to support your premise. The arguments supporting your premise must be clear and concise in order to defend against counterarguments.
My daughter’s first argument supporting her premise was “In emergencies, I will be able to contact you.” I counterargued, “As you stated earlier, everyone at school has a cell phone. If you have an emergency, you can use one of your friend’s cell phones.” The argument in support of my daughter’s premise failed. She is now left with her premise, “I want a cell phone,” which is simply an unrequited want, one of many unrequited wants she will experience in life. My daughter’s second argument was “If I’m out alone late at night and get stranded, I can call you for help.” My counterargument was “You are too young to be out alone late at night, so you will not need a cell phone to call me or her mom for help.” The argument in support of my daughter’s premise again failed. She is still left with an unrequited want.
My daughter realized that her premise and arguments in support of her premise were flawed, so she introduced a new premise and argument. Her new premise incorporated the enthymeme “You want me to be safe when I’m outside the house.” Simply stated, an enthymeme is a statement that all people must agree upon. In this case, my wife and I must agree with the enthymeme, “You want me to be safe when I’m outside the house.” Any answer we give other than “Yes” puts us in a bad light. Any counterargument we present is effectively neutralized because, in essence, we would be saying we don’t want our daughter to be safe when she is outside the home. This is what I refer to as a checkmate premise. My daughter added an unspoken emotional element to make her premise stronger. If you can get others to agree with your premise, they are more likely to listen to the arguments supporting your premise. My daughter supported her premise with the following argument, “In emergencies, I could call you or mom for help or I could call 911.” This supporting argument is a checkmate argument. Again, my daughter incorporated the enthymeme, in emergencies, you want me to be able to call for help. Any counterargument we make would put us in a bad light. My daughter’s second argument in support of her premise was “My friends use cell phones to communicate with each other and I don’t want to be left out of my social group.” This is probably the real reason my daughter wanted a cell phone. Nonetheless, she used an enthymeme in her argument. What parent wants their child to be left out of a social group, especially if the social group to which she belongs serves as a good influence? When constructing your premise and arguments supporting your premise, look for things people can agree with in general terms. An enthymeme is a powerful tool of influence.
Inference or conclusion
After presenting your premise and arguments supporting your premise, you must present an inference or conclusion. An inference or conclusion is based on the evidence and reasoning you presented with your arguments supporting your premise. Therefore, your inference or conclusion should mirror your premise. After my daughter presented her revised premise and arguments supporting her premise, her inference or conclusion was, “Therefore, I need a cell phone.” My wife and I found her argument to be convincing so, we bought her a cell phone.
Simple declarative sentences
Use Simple declarative sentences. Simple declarative sentences appear more truthful. Researchers have shown that readers and listeners judge simple declarative sentences as more truthful than longer, more complex sentences. A simple declarative sentence contains a noun and a verb. Introducing adjectives into a sentence changes the characteristics of nouns. Likewise, introducing adverbs into a sentence changes the actions of the verb. The infusion of adjectives and adverbs introduces ambiguity. You must be very careful when introducing adjectives and adverbs into a sentence. Every word you add to a sentence must have a deliberate purpose. Without exception, delete all extraneous words from your sentences.
Simple declarative sentences require only two punctuation prompts, a capital letter at the beginning of the sentence and a period at the end of the sentence. Many people today do not know how to correctly use commas. Simple declarative sentences require no commas; therefore, you do not have to know complicated comma rules. Sentences that contain punctuation mistakes make writers look uneducated, incompetent, or lazy. Writing simple declarative sentences eliminate punctuation errors.
Use simple words
The purpose of communication is to inform, persuade, or influence listeners or readers. Most listeners and readers have a 500-word working vocabulary, which is equivalent to a fifth-grade reading level. If you want to inform, persuade, or influence listeners or readers, you must use simple vocabulary so your message is easily understood. Another advantage to using simple vocabulary is that most writers know how to correctly spell simple vocabulary words. This significantly reduces the chance that you will misspell words.
One sentence one idea or action
By definition, simple declarative sentences contain one noun and one verb, which means that only one idea or activity can be addressed in one sentence. Assigning one idea or action to one sentence forces you to address one idea or action at a time, which avoids any ambiguity in your message. Writers often write stream of consciousness. By assigning one idea or action to one sentence forces writers to deliberately think through how to articulate each thought they want to translate into words.
Use active words
Active words propel the reader from one sentence to the next sentence. Passive verbs also referred to as “to be” verbs, weaken sentences. You should try to refrain from using the following passive words, is, are, was, were, have, has, had, am, been, be, and being in your oral and written communications. The only exception to this rule is when you write a stative simple declarative sentence. For example, the sentence I am a student states who you are. The sentence, This is a book identifies the antecedent for the pronoun this. There is no other way to write these sentences. Many writers find eliminating passive verbs difficult because their working vocabularies are restricted to 500 words. You cannot physically act out passive verbs; whereas, you can physically act out active verbs. Choose words that you can physically act out.
This formula for effective communication is easy to remember and can be applied to many business and social situations. For example, if you want to convince your supervisor to pursue a particular course of action, succinctly state what you want to achieve, use simple declarative sentences with action words to support your position, and present your conclusion, which restates your premise. In a social situation, you may want to go to your favorite restaurant for lunch but your co-workers may prefer other restaurants. To persuade your co-workers to follow your lead, state the restaurant you want to go to, state the reasons why the restaurant is the preferred place to go, and state your conclusion, “Let’s have lunch at this restaurant.” This formula can be used in any situation wherein you want to inform, persuade or influence others.