“To alcohol! The cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems.” – Homer Simpson
While Homer may not be wrong, I’d like to propose you could easily replace “alcohol” with “communication” and the statement would work just as well.
Miscommunication, lack of communication, overly complex communication—all these can lead to confusion and conflict. But good communication leads to understanding and empathy. While we’ll never entirely rid the world of bad communication, there are some pretty easy things we can do to ensure it’s minimized.
I’m reading Carl Sagan’s astronomy classic, Cosmos—the book that accompanied the TV series from the ‘80s. And I’m no astronomer. I’m lucky if I can calculate a proper tip correctly in a reasonable amount of time. But I understand every word in this book. The reason for this isn’t by chance—it was very intentional. Sagan is regarded as not only one of the greatest astronomers of a generation, but also one of the greatest science communicators. He made the mind-blowing complexities and mysteries of the universe understandable, even simple, which captivated the general public and inspired countless people to pursue astronomy studies and research. And if Sagan can do this with the stars, we certainly can do it with more earth-bound, everyday topics.
Bad communications are everywhere in the form of tax documents, health insurance, corporate jargon and acronyms (and yea, tbh, they’re fun sometimes). But when you’re trying to get a message across to an audience—any audience—clear, simple, straightforward language is always best. An expert in any field has the burden of knowledge and thinks, “This is important and I must share it all.” But without the same context and background as the expert, the audience can become quickly confused by the information. And when the audience is confused, they get distracted. And when they get distracted, cue the mental checklists, bathroom strategy, weekend plans, cheeseburger dreams, etc. The end result, then, is the same as if the expert had said nothing at all. So what to do?
Here are some simple tips for good communication:
- Know your audience
Before communicating, know who you’re talking to and listen to your information from their shoes. This will help tailor your message properly so it has the highest chance of being understood.
- Don’t be afraid of dumbing down the message
As previously mentioned, experts have the burden of knowledge—so much to share, so little time. They also don’t want to talk down to their audience. Let me put your mind at ease—don’t worry about this. Dumb your message way down. Cut the details. Make it simple, then make it insanely simple. A simple message combined with passion for the topic is a great formula for success.
- Repeat the message
Repeat your dumbed down message. Repeat your insanely dumbed down message.
Communication isn’t a synonym for speaking. It also includes listening. Good communicators are always listening and adjusting their message based on the needs of the audience.
- Keep it quick
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