Read your messaging in a robot voice

My obsession with messaging is based on my personal experience editing hundreds of pages of copy for myself, my direct reports, and my clients. When your brand is on the line, you're incentivized to make sure copy gets your audience to take action, achieves the outcome you want, and represents you well (so you don't invite a flurry of customer complaints).

In other words, if you're a leader or changemaker who uses words to persuade, this post is for you.

I want to tell you about what I call the robot voice method.

Do you have a friend who sounds cold via text? In person, they might be the nicest, warmest people. Then you'll read their text. You pour your heart out, and they reply with "Ok.”

And you think, “Wow, do you secretly hate me? Are we even friends??”

This is a classic example of coming across differently than you intended. You might have great intentions, but no one will care. They only care about how they feel when receiving your message. This matters because how they interpret your words impacts how THEY act. It can either spiral upwards or downwards from there.

This is why it's important to understand the constraints of your medium. The medium we're talking about today is written text: email, Google Docs, memos, SMS, Slack, FB posts, tweets, etc.

When you’re in person, you have all kinds of clues that add to your message:

  • Facial expression

  • Mood

  • Tone of voice

  • How fast or slow you’re talking

  • Pitch of voice

  • How somber vs light you sound


All of these show sincerity and trust. They help your recipient understand your message.

But when you convey messages with the written word, you only have text.

Cold, hard text.

This is why you should use the robot method. The robot method is a way to self-edit by reading your own writing in a robot voice. When you read in a robot voice, you mimic reality. You mimic the constraints of your medium.

The idea of reading your writing out loud isn't new. You might already be doing that. But you’re probably giving yourself all kinds of the benefit of the doubt with reading in a happy voice, adding emotion, and sounding positive.

Here's a quick exercise. Try saying the word "thanks" in these ways:

  • "Thanks" - sarcasm, secretly means "no thanks"

  • "Thanks" - eager and surprised and excited

  • "Thanks" - unimpressed, obligatory, maybe secretly saying "f you"

  • "Thanks" - true gratefulness, looking you in the eye, borderline guilt because there's so much appreciation

  • "Thanks" - peppy, casual, "thanks for handing me my receipt" kind of thanks

All those emotions you just showed? You won’t be there to show how genuine you sound and how trustworthy your face looks.

The robot method intentionally removes emotion from your voice. Why? Because not everyone will give you the benefit of the doubt. Your recipient might feel insecure or threatened or just be having a bad day.

They'll read your note through their own emotional lens at the moment, which you have no control over. They might read your words with the emotional excitement of a robot—or worse.

Remember: You have text. Only text. Cold, hard text.

When you read in a robot voice, jot down anything you need to explain or say in a softer way. Go back and edit those sections. Often, swapping out a word is enough to make your writing sound friendlier but still accurate.

You have to create something that is standalone. It has to work without you being there. This means your content and word choice has to do the heavy lifting. The goal: Your words should work EVEN IF the person reads your note in a robot voice. They should still understand the emotional tone of your message.

You might be surprised by how your robot version of your note didn't sound as friendly as you assumed. The first piece is understanding that you might NOT coming across as kind, competent, and warm as you think you are. And it's hurting your ability to persuade and influence.

The robot voice method empowers you to see your message more clearly. From there, you can edit, fix, and improve the work.

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Wes Kao