Fooling You With Percents


In last year’s presidential debates, there was an exchange that struck me as very interesting and it has stuck with me for weeks now. In the interest of staying non-political and focusing on the communication lesson we should all know, I’ll not identify which debater said what.

In debating a point, one of them referenced three percent of small business owners, while the other referenced the same group as the small businesses that employ half the country’s work force. And they were both correct in their description of the same group.

One knew that three percent sounded small while the other new that fifty percent sounded large. These choices were not accidental. Both of these men had a clear message and agenda and had these exact descriptions long planned.

They were also counting on people to not pay close attention. Or that people listening close were not listening to learn but listening only for points that bolster the reasons they support a specific candidate. In other words, the debate was not to convince people, it was to boost and further engage those who had already decided. After all, you still need supporters to be motivated to go vote too.

Regardless of your political lean left or right, realize that many people, and especially politicians and media, are very skilled at presenting real facts in a way that sends a hidden message or supports a biased position. It does not mean they are wrong, or deceitful. If you are not paying close enough attention to consider real meaning, you are the one deceiving yourself. That’s your choice.


Glenn S. PhillipsGlenn S. Phillips is the author of the book Nerd-to-English: Your Everyday Guide to Translating Your Business, Your Messages, and Yourself.  You can email Glenn directly at

Glenn is also the president of Forte’ Incorporated, a consulting firm that works with business leaders to understand and address the often hidden technology and business risks lurking within their organizations.

© Copyright 2013. Glenn S. Phillips, Forte’ Incorporated. (205) 985-1111



About the Author

Glenn S. Phillips works with leaders who want to leverage technology and understand risks within. An author and blogger, Glenn is often quoted in national media, plays a really ugly tuba (it even has a bullet hole) and is a fan of dark chocolate and great puns.