02/27/14

How You Say It Is Just As Important As What You Say

I recently watched the documentary on the 20-year anniversary of the Olympic figure skating attack involving Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding.  I knew the overall story but didn’t know the details of the attack or the events preceding the attack leading up to the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer.

I knew that Harding was vilified and thought Kerrigan was the hero of the story.  What surprised me most is how Kerrigan was viewed immediately after the attack, as well as after winning the silver medal at the 1994 Olympics.  Much of the perception of Kerrigan and, for that matter, Harding came not only from what they said, but the way they said it.

For example, after winning the silver medal, Kerrigan and the bronze medal winner had to wait for gold medalist Oksana Baiul before the medals ceremony started. The wait was 20 minutes and was for Olympic officials to find a copy of the Ukrainian national anthem. Someone mistakenly told Kerrigan the delay in the presentation was because Baiul had cried off her make-up and was getting it retouched. Kerrigan was frustrated and caught on-camera saying, “Oh, come on. She’s going to get up there and cry again. What’s the difference?”

While that may have been true, it was her delivery that didn’t sit well with fans and the general public.  Similarly, after she returned to the United States, Disney World in Orlando, Florida held a parade for her.  Kerrigan was in a car with Mickey Mouse at the happiest place on earth and a video camera caught her saying “This is dumb. I hate it. This is the corniest thing I have ever done.”

Kerrigan claims she didn’t mean the parade, but the video gave a very different impression and caused her a lot of grief.

A few days before watching this documentary, a friend of mine put out a call for help.  He was looking for contacts and referrals for a business project. I responded and he told me what he was looking for.  I made a recommendation and the response I got back was basically, “Let me see if I get a better offer.”  He said he’d get back to me if he needed me.  My thought at the time was, “Don’t bother.”  I knew what he meant, but the delivery was wrong and made me not want to help.

With these instances in mind, here are three tips to help communicate more effectively what you mean and help avoid these types of awkward moments.

I have a relative that we all cringe a little when he starts talking to people for the first time.  This relative has no filter and on more than one occasion has said things we know aren’t meant to be rude, but that offend people.  When possible, we try to warn people who are meeting this individual for the first time that he means no harm, but inevitably he says something and someone is offended.  Most of the time it’s simply the way he communicates it and the way he says it. In these instances it doesn’t matter that he didn’t mean to be rude, the damage is already done.

If you’re careful about the way you say things and communicate you can avoid a lot of unnecessary problems.  The way you say things is as important as what you say.

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About the author

Jeremy Kartchner
Jeremy Kartchner

Jeremy Kartchner is a Partner at Snapp Conner PR and has more than 15 years experience in both technology and sports PR.  In addition to his responsibilities with Snapp Conner PR, Kartchner also works with the Utah Jazz as a member of its Game Night public relations staff where he is responsible for tracking and providing game time statistics for local, national and international media and conducting pre and post game player and coach interviews. He’s a sports fan, golfer, father of three, husband to one hottie, partially bionic, cavity free, Olympics junkie and wanna be blogger.

Author: Jeremy Kartchner | Google+

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