The How, What and When of a Message

The how, what, and when of a message is critical to its delivery, understanding, and intent. I recall hearing as a child, “sticks and stones may break your bones, but words will never hurt you.” While entirely untrue, I think adults may have said that to teach young people coping skills to deal with the hurt words can cause.

Another phase “timing is everything” gives credence to the relevance, impact and intent of words. What do I mean? Author, and speaker, John Maxwell posted the message below on Friday, June 26, 2020.

I responded with this message offering the following suggested edit:

“To move forward, you must first have a universal reckoning so that you can say good-bye to yesterday’s hurts, tragedies, and baggage. Then you have no cause to build monuments to past problems and fail forward.”

Why Respond:

I believe that among other things, the timing of this message is just as essential as the message itself. We are amid a national dialog of inclusion and reckoning into the institution of slavery and what it means to be an American citizen.

With the heightened awareness of generations of racial injustices against Blacks in America, coupled with the historical complexities of slavery, implying to “get over it” (say good-bye), is likely not his intention, but is the result.

What is in a Word

My dear friend in my head, Angela Rye, commented this evening about something her father said to her when she referred to Blacks as Slaves. What he said was simple yet profound. Her father said, “they are enslaved persons, not slaves.” The term slave dehumanizes the individual and implies less-than as in the rhetoric of the three-fifths compromise used to determine a state’s legislative representation, gave Southern states more seats in Congress and one-third more electoral votes. Since Blacks were considered property, they were only counted as three-fifths of a person.

By contrast, an enslaved person provides for the state of a whole person’s existence-five-fifths-separate and apart from his/her circumstance, which in this case is slavery.

The time for reckoning, settlement, understanding is now.
The time for awareness, reckoning and settlement is now.

Universal Reckoning

Regarding John Maxwell’s quote, I believe words matter. This quote, at this time, lacks consciousness, connection, and understanding of the current state of things in America. Without a universal reckoning or settlement of the foundational, systemic injustices practiced against Blacks, America cannot reconcile and say goodbye to yesterday’s hurts, tragedies, and baggage.

I did not get a response from Mr. Maxwell. I say the time for awareness, reckoning, and settlement is now. I am making him aware because he doesn’t get a pass. When you know better, you can do better.

In theory, I understand what he may have been trying to say. I also realize that while it may not have been the intent of his message, given the timing, his words wreak of blinders.

Improvement Opportunity

The messaging pointed out here is but another example of the value of business and industry, ensuring they have a diverse workforce – particularly in a decision-making senior leadership capacity equipped to speak truth to power and drive cultural change. Diversity and inclusion is a business imperative that includes Black people.

A culturally-relevance workplace environment helps to ensure the “How, What, and When of a [your] Message” is delivered and received as intended.



Lynn F Austin, MBA, is an author and speaker. Her messages reflect her courage and commitment against fear, doubt, and disbelief. Dedicated to serving causes impacting domestic violence, at-risk youth and cultural relevance, she strives to inspire others to live their purpose.

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