Unblocking Business Writing
Updated: May 1, 2020
Earlier this week, I took a new approach to teaching Business Writing that changed the dynamic of the class and gave a new perspective on how we communicate. As I reviewed the training material our client has used in the past, it struck me that the underlying motivation for good business writing is to avoid judgement. No wonder so many people dread writing. Writing is not about judgement; it is about connection. So after introductions, here's how I started:
How many of you love writing? I invite you to close your eyes and think back to when you first learned to write. Do you remember learning to write your name? Do you remember writing stories or letters to your parents or notes to your friends? What was your experience like?
Do you recall if it was exciting to express your thoughts or if there was something that made it scary. Did someone criticize your handwriting or spelling or the thoughts that you wrote down, or did they let you fill the page with colors and words, maybe even pictures?
What we humans really seek is connection. We want to be seen, heard and valued. Isn't this what writing is all about? Isn't writing a way for us to connect with each other? Imagine that you can go back to those first experiences with writing and, with a child-like mind, express yourself without fear or judgement, with a sense of wonder and a desire to connect; imagine writing as a way to be seen and valued. If your earliest memories are like this, tap into them. And if they aren't, give your childhood self permission to be fearless and see what happens when you let yourself explore this image.
Now think about all those emails that you write every day. What sort of connection are you making? What kind of communication are we really conveying day-to-day in our stress-filled lives.
There is a lot we can teach about business writing, but before we talk about the five W's, or keeping our message simple with good grammar and formatting, we have to take the fear out of the way we communicate with each other.
At the beginning of class participants, in monotone voices, talked about their dislike of writing and the burden of so many emails. But when I announced that our classroom was a judgment free zone with only the goal of better connecting with each other, a whole new energy washed over the room. We were honest about the way that we communicate, the assumptions that we make about our audience, and why we send lengthy emails in order to avoid blame or prove ourselves. With a sense of humor, this honest look at the way we communicate opened each of us up to becoming better writers who make deeper connections - with ourselves and others.