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Say What You Mean What You Say
by Jim Allen

Washington Post columnist Bob Levey shared a list of some of his favorite funny headlines. His list includes some incredibly funny, laugh-out-loud lines. Among them were:

"Study Finds Sex, Pregnancy Link."

"Official: Only Rain Will Cure Drought."

"Low Wages Said To Be Key to Poverty."

"Man Shoots Neighbor With Machete."

"Something Went Wrong in Jet Crash, Expert Says."

"Lack of Brains Hinders Research."

"Heat Wave Linked To Temperatures."

"Key Witness Takes Fifth in Liquor Probe."

"Capital Punishment Bill Called 'Death Oriented.' "

"Beheading Can Cause Kids' Stress."

And my personal favorite, which I have yet to figure out just what this article may have actually be about:

"Rest of the Year May Not Follow January."

In addition to a good laugh, these well-intentioned but off-the-mark headlines also provide us with an important lesson about communication.

Keep in mind that these lines were written by professional copy writers. Trained news men and women who make their livings communicating. But even as skilled as they are, they can still screw it up from time to time. They meant one thing, but it came out quite differently when they put it down on paper.

Our own communication -- with spouses, friends, and co-workers -- is something that we tend to give even less thought than these professionals do to a simple news headline. Meaning that chances are good that many, many more times in our daily lives we simply aren't saying the things that we really mean, or worse, we don't mean the things that we say.

"I could use some help on this project" is not the same thing as "Bob, I need you to copy these papers for me so I can finish this report."

"I don't care. What do you want to do?" is not the same as "I'd be up for a movie or a ball game, but please, I don't want to spend another evening at the Cajun Country Sushi Bar."

These may not be as funny as the silly headlines above, but they are examples of poor communication. The type of poor communication that results in our being frustrated and upset that we're not getting the things we want and need from life.

Your mother always told you to watch your language and she was right! Make sure that you are saying what you mean and that you mean what you say.

Jim Allen, the Big Idea Coach, helps you make your small ideas big & your big ideas real. For more ideas, subscribe to his bi-weekly ezine, THE BIG IDEA, by sending a blank email

Jim Allen may be contacted at or


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