Many years ago, when I was a reporter in a small town, it was rumored a large corporation was buying a mill that had recently closed and laid off everyone. Hundreds. It was the only employer in town, and about three generations of residents had worked there over the years.
Being the inexperienced hotshot I was at the time, I picked up the phone and called the rumored company. Got the person in charge and said: “I heard a rumor you were buying the mill.”
There was a pause, followed by the firm response: “We don’t answer to rumors.” Another pause. “Do you have any other questions?”
“Um, well, so, are you?” Yeah, I bombed that one and it was over.
Ever since then, I never started my interviews with, “I heard a rumor.”
The point I’m making, aside from the obvious, is if I hadn’t made that mistake and have it brought to my attention, I probably wouldn’t have learned from it.
While that form of communication is verbal, our verbal communications should help us with our written communications. In fact, our written communications are edited versions of our conversations.
As I’ve worked with various individuals and organizations over the years, I also had to learn that culture, environment, location, gender, and many other things all shape how we communicate. Global corporations have to learn to communicate widely to appeal to their employees and customers across the world. What is crafted in the United States cannot be shared with say, China, in the same form. Different cultures, different communications styles.
Understanding people takes empathy, which needs to be trained. Sometimes that comes from personal experience.
Can you train technology to have feelings? Can you train it to distinguish individuals? Can you train it to understand human behavior?
Using AI for communications
Emotional intelligence is something that is highlighted in learning to communicate with individuals. We can read about it and study it, but to understand it, we have to delve into human behavior. Sometimes that is based on experience, either our own or from people close to us.
When you have to communicate with individuals in verbal form, that takes a lot of preparation and care. But when it needs to be done in written form, even more care is needed because it is hard to read emotion in an email, for example.
Now, you can ask ChatGPT to formulate a firm, professional email to help you communicate intentions. But remember, it is basing its response on general information. Would the same communication appeal to a person who likes messages short and to the point? What if the person wants the numbers, facts and data, rather than the emotion? What if the person is in another country? Of a different generation and age bracket? Is the person sensitive?
Our writing stems from a background of understanding. We should be able to take the intention of the message and shape it in a way that fits the person and circumstance. What one finds helpful, another could find offensive because of the tone or language.
AI is incapable of understanding human emotion and behavior.
Professional writers, on the other hand, have learned the art of appealing on an emotional level to specific audiences and people. After gathering our intel, we have to step back and ask ourselves: “Is this the best way to communicate this message?” Our skills (and mistakes) have taught us to recognize flaws in our message.
And frankly, the best writers, the best communicators, the best storytellers, are the ones who have erred and have experienced life.
“In order to write about life first you must live it.” — Ernest Hemingway
Writers can appeal to humans on an emotional level to persuade. While AI might have its use, ultimately, professional writers understand the backgrounds and makeup of people, putting us in the best place to communicate effectively.