Why don’t we tell the truth more often?

The Organized Mind - Daniel LevitinI’m currently reading Daniel Levitin’s excellent book The Organized Mind in which he delves into all sorts of ways that our brains work and how we might want to change our behaviour to make our lives easier.

He makes some excellent points on the human desire to lie in everyday interactions and asks why we do it.

“One reason is fear of reprisal when we’ve done something we shouldn’t. It is not the better part of human nature, but it is human nature to lie to avoid parliament.”

But Levitin then points out the conundrum, also based on natural behaviour.

“But it is also human nature to forgive, especially when we’re given an explanation. In one stufy, people who tried to cut in line were forgiven by others even if their explanation was ridiculous.
In a line for a copy machine, ‘I’m sorry, may I cut in? I need to make copies’ was every bit as effective as ‘I’m sorry, may I cut in? I’m on deadline.”

And if you think forgiveness is only reserved for trivial explanations, then you’d be wrong.

“When doctors at the University of Michigan hospitals started disclosing trheir mistakes to patients openly, malpractice suits were cut in hal. The biggest impediment to resolution had been requiring patients to imagine what their doctors were thinking, and having to sue to find out, rather than just allowing doctors to explain how a mistake happened.”

Nicholas Epley, a professor at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business writes:

“If being transparent strengthens the social ties that make life worth living and enables others to forgive our shortcomings, why not do it more often?”

Being honest with others is something we all struggle with and, obviously, some white lies are all part of the social glue that prevents tempers flaring and avoids hurting other people, but there’s clearly a case to being more open.

If you’re interesting the way our brains work, Daniel Levitin’s The Organized Mind is a fascinating read.

Why 2013 should be the year you think ‘tone of voice’

This post was originally published on the Web Managers Group site.

As web managers we have a lot to think about, don’t we?

Can people find our content? Does the technology work properly? Are we pleasing our stakeholders? Are there any broken links? Should we be doing more video?… the list is endless.

But I’d like to propose you focus on an oft-forgotten area as a matter of urgency in 2013: tone of voice.


There are many outsiders who scoff at those three words, likening it to the umbrella that the barman adds to the cocktail glass – pretty, but ultimately just decorative. The bit that gets added at the end, almost as an afterthought.

Oh, how wrong they are. If you’ll allow me to continue with the cocktail analogy, tone of voice is the usually-unseen ingredient that turns a bit of alcohol, ice and fruit into something so addictive that you keep wanting to come back for more.

In fact, I’d go so far as to say that tone of voice is possibly the most important element of your website and YOU ARE THE GUARDIANS!
Continue reading “Why 2013 should be the year you think ‘tone of voice’”

Did Tesco get it right with its apology?

Tesco's online apology
Tesco’s online apology – click to see text full-size
Following the horsemeat beefburger story earlier this week, today Tesco has taken out ads in newspapers and implemented a full-screen pop-up [right] on its website to apologise to customers.

Tesco is clearly – and rightly – worried that the story is going to put off customers and lose them trade, so the speed and proportion of its action seems totally correct.

However, I’m more interested in the words and tone used and whether it really will resonate with customers.

Are Tesco ‘really’ sorry?

The first thing that strikes me is the headline – “We apologise”.

Now correct if I’m wrong, but that doesn’t really sound as if there’s any regret there. Not only does ‘apologise’ imply that they’re saying it because they have to, but it’s not very friendly.
Continue reading “Did Tesco get it right with its apology?”