It’s Not What You Say, It’s What People Hear

Whether in business or in personal life, it’s always important to say the right thing so that you can be clearly understood and the appropriate action is taken. As the saying goes, “it’s not what you say, it’s what people hear”, so it’s very important to understand the message you want to get across and how you’re going to deliver it. This is especially important when using social media to communicate your message.

We’ve all posted something on social media that has been misunderstood by the reader and then, perhaps, spent a bit of time explaining what we meant by our message so the reader understands. That is fine as an individual but as a business of any size, you’re not afforded the same opportunity and if someone picks up the message the wrong way, you could be looking at your message being shared/retweeted many times over for all to see. PureGym experienced exactly that on Boxing Day with this Tweet:

It's Not The Message You Say, It's What People Hear


Their intention may have been well-meant, to show how many calories an average person will consume in their Christmas Dinner and to encourage people to come to the gym to burn it off. It wasn’t received that way, the message was retweeted many times and the company were widely criticised for their choice of words, particularly the word ‘damage’ which was interpreted as if it was damaging to health or, perhaps, potentially be a trigger to someone either with or recovering from an eating disorder. The company eventually deleted the tweet and issued an apology.

For me, exercise should be seen as something everyone can do to improve their mental and physical health, to do something they enjoy and enjoy the benefits with family and friends as opposed as a reaction to overeating or as a means to an end. I always encourage people to enjoy themselves at Christmas, or any other celebration event, as they’re isolated events and the most important factor is being around friends and family rather than the amount of food you eat. So what if you had an extra portion of Christmas Pudding or a fair bit of chocolate? It’s one day in the year and as long as you had fun, that’s all that matters.

I suspect that message from PureGym might have been best suited to an email to their members, who already know their style of communication and unlikely to be offended by it. The takeaway point from this is to think about the message you want to get across, think about your potential audience and how you might want to communicate that message so you get the desired response and become less likely to offend anyone.

2018-01-24T09:25:18+00:00December 29th, 2017|


  1. Kyla Beattie 30th December 2017 at 12:13 pm - Reply

    We all need to do better and think before we speak and write.

    Good reminder with this post.

    • stevebonthrone 30th December 2017 at 5:10 pm - Reply

      Yes! Taking a few minutes to think about what you want to say always makes life so much easier!

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