The Core Message
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The Core Message

Messaging in Divided Times: Lessons from that Basecamp Post

Photo by Hello I'm Nik on Unsplash

The whole first part is an exercise in framing

This is how Fried began his post:

A puzzling quote from Huxley

Before he announced the actual changes, he quoted Aldous Huxley:

  • Quote someone his readers all admired
  • Who had to make a decision that was difficult, unpopular, and RIGHT
  • And his readers agreed the decision was right

The changes themselves were written in a blunt and definitive way

The five policy changes all began with NO MORE.

  • We’re done with 360s, too
  • We are not a social impact company
  • They’re not our topics at work

Us vs. Them

Sometimes, the most telling words in a piece of writing isn’t the nouns, verbs, or adjectives. It’s the pronouns.

Tiny wording and subtle tone can make a difference.

Pay close attention to your use of pronouns

  • Avoid using “we vs. you”, or “us vs. them”.
  • Just use “we” to talk about pursuit of common goals.

Don’t use short and blunt phrases to convey your position. Consider going with positive framing

If you’re done discussing, then sure, short and blunt phrases are just right — don’t mislead people into thinking there’s still room to talk.

  • Not: “No more discussing politics in the work channel”
  • But: “We hope you continue to talk about important societal and political issues, and we’re opening a dedicated space & time for this…”

But do use short and blunt phrasing to convey their feelings

You should feel free to go direct and blunt, however, to recap the other side’s feelings:

  • You’re angry
  • You’re upset
  • You want to walk away



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Andrew Yang

Former presidential speechwriter. Now helping CEOs and founders tell better stories. Co-founder of Presentality