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Dianna Booher writes about communication skills and the right reasoning

No one wants to be accused of doing a data dump as a presenter.  Neither do they want to turn in a book report when they propose a new strategic plan to executive management or, worse, when they write a sales proposal.  Instead, they hope to be persuasive––to build a strong case for their idea or plan.

But in the process of trying to put their best persuasive spin on a presentation or document, sometimes they move too fast and fall into a quagmire of faulty reasoning.

You may want to check for these common reasoning errors in your own presentations and documents:

Force fitting an analogy.  You use an analogy to explain how two things are alike—and then get carried away. “A maintenance agreement on our copier is like an insurance policy on our automobile.” Yes, there are similarities that would help someone understand the idea of a prepaid maintenance agreement, but it doesn’t follow that the two arrangements are alike in all ways. Insisting that they are in order to make a point is faulty reasoning.

Generalizing from a single case.  Your sales manager in Tupelo feels uninformed by headquarters about the introduction of new company products and marketing campaigns. Therefore, you reason and communicate to headquarters that ALL sales managers feel uninformed on important new developments.

Focusing on all or nothing.   You consider all ideas as a package deal. You attempt to persuade your audience or readers that they have to accept all of what you have to say or none of what you have to say.  You continue to insist that Product X will meet either all our organization’s needs or none of our needs. You insist that your division will have to reward every intern with perfect attendance every year—or no one for perfect attendance.

Stating rather than proving. “Those safety procedures have been largely ineffective.”  “That manager has been delinquent in dealing with safety issues.” Where’s the proof? What specific incidents have gone unresolved? “Ferdinand has no ambition to move up in the company.” What specifics support this conclusion?  “Caroline is not a productive employee and has not handled supplier relationships appropriately during her tenure here.”  Calling a process “primitive” or equipment “state of the art” doesn’t make it so.

Confusing sequence with cause and effect. A demanding controller joins the company August 1 as head of Max’s department. Max resigns on August 31; therefore, stating Max left because he had difficulty working with the new controller may be totally invalid.  Chronology may have little or nothing to do with the result. Check for these gaps in logic before someone points them out to you in front of a group and damages your credibility.

Begging the question (or stating the obvious).  Here are some examples excerpted from documents collected in our writing workshops:  “I suggest users perform these tests quarterly because the results will give them further information.”  (Obviously.  Do results ever give less information?)  “More interviewing may be useful because it may shed more light on the subject.”  (Will more interviewing ever shed less light?)  “The consultants determined that we should reinforce the structure because this was the wisest solution.”  (Right. Do they otherwise advise the dumbest solution?)

Catching your own gaps in logic before others do it for you can save your reputation—and maybe a relationship.

As CEO of Booher Consultants and a keynote speaker, Dianna Booher works with organizations to address specific communication challenges and increase their productivity and effectiveness in writing skills, presentation skills, interpersonal communication, and client communication. An expert in executive communication, she is the author of 46 books, published in 23 languages. Her latest books include Creating Personal Presence: Look, Talk, Think, and Act Like a Leader and Communicate with Confidence, Revised and Expanded Edition. National media such as Good Morning America, USA Today, the Wall Street Journal, Investor’s Business Daily, Bloomberg,, CNN International, NPR, Success, and Entrepreneur have interviewed her for opinions on critical workplace communication issues. Clients include 22 of the top Fortune 50 companies. 1-800-342-6621

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10 thoughts on “Communication Skills: Are You Reasoning Right?”

  1. Excellent points. I think stating rather than proving is a common pitfall that many people experience. If your an expert, show your stuff! You know it, so be confident and organized… then others will know what you know too!

  2. These are excellent tips. One of the things I find helps me fix the flaws is reading everything out loud when it’s done. You catch things as you hear the words that you don’t always see when you’re just looking at the page or the screen.

    1. Thanks for all the input, Jay, Helena, Debra. Glad you’ve found the tips helpful. In reading reports and hearing presentations from lawyers, engineers, and financial analysts, our consultants run into these reasoning errors often. It’s strange that people see them in others’ work–but not their own.

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