Skillset New Zealand Blog

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There are three words that will make you sound insincere even when you are sincere.

Never use these words with a reporter

The words are "unfortunate", "regrettable", and (shudder) "reprehensible".

When I was a reporter, one CEO told me (in front of the camera) that the death of a baby in a fire (his company was responsible for the conditions that produced the fire) was a "regrettable incident". You only have to think for one second about the feelings of the baby's parents to know that the word "regrettable" can actually enrage people.

Why those words make you look bad 

Why? Because all three words are clinical and therefore detached from feelings. They pretend that the incident is minor and no-one will have strong feelings.

None is fooled. The fact that you're trying to minimise it can make you look like a cold-hearted bureaucrat.

What to do instead?

The short answer is that there are easy ways to sound human - acknowledging the feelings of those worst affected - with no any legal ripples. The longer and better answer is in my book Media Easy in the section How to prepare for an effective interview.

Michael

About Michael Brown

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Michael is a senior trainer with Skillset, based in Christchurch.

He is a leading authority on training in presentation and news media skills in New Zealand. He has special expertise in how to present emotionally charged topics to challenging audiences. Michael has trained thousands of New Zealanders and worked with people who speak on behalf of some of the country's largest organisations.

Michael is a prolific author and his books on speaking and working with the media are in their fourth editions.

Speaking Easy: how to speak to your audiences with confidence and authority

Media Easy: how to handle the news media with confidence and authority

One of Michael's books is about his family's adventures sailing in the Pacific.

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