Are You Trying to Communicate or Impress?
5 Tips for Effective Communication
Communication is essential for everything in life. Lack of effective communication skills can cost one in relationships, business and job opportunities. Why? If your message isn’t understood, you lose. I find too many business people believe using highfalutin, $2 words, strung together with business jargon and clichés will impress and make them look like intellectual giants. I’m here to tell you, uh… no, it doesn’t.
A good idea can be lost in the noise of expressing it, when one tries too hard. There’s a reason why Leonardo Da Vinci (and Steve Jobs) said, simplicity is the highest form of sophistication. You see, simple does not mean easy – too many confuse these two words (just like anxious and eager). Simple is HARD; (warning… $2 word) convoluted is easy.
I received a message from a connection on LinkedIn promising me the world in business growth and warm leads, evolving my business to “…the next level” (AAARRGHH!!! How I hate that phrase. Everyone uses it for lack of creative-communication skills and it’s lost its impact 20 years ago!). A digression, whenever I read “…take your business to the next level,” I delete the message and read no further. Okay, let’s continue.
Many businesses offering fantastic services either wither on the vine or take longer than necessary to succeed, because they pay no attention to how they speak or write. There are plenty of made up words trying to sound too clever, which are losing their meaning in translation, and they believe it impresses. It only confuses.
I remember the first time I heard the word “gamification.” REALLY? I looked at the guy who said it and thought to myself how stupid that word sounds that I heard nothing else. It made me think of Rush’s “disgronificator” story; a made up word by his mechanic so he could charge him $400 for a $50 auto repair. Today, many use it because they’ve glommed onto how techno it sounds. Wouldn’t it be simpler and more effective to say, “We help companies use games to attract clients and get them interested in their products?” It says what you want said, understandably.
5 Tips for Effective Communication
1. Write at a 10th-Grade Reading Level
Imagine you’re trying to get a teenager to understand your message, so he or she can share it with his or her friends. According to Work-Learning Research, people forget:
- 40% of what they’ve heard in 20 minutes.
- 77% in six days.
- 90% in 30 days.
That was just for simple communication, like an ad or conversation. If it requires learning, they forget:
- 50% to 80% after one day (depending on one’s cognitive-retention skills… sorry, memory ability).
- 97% to 98% in 30 days.
If you make it harder to understand by writing at a college level, retention drops dramatically, if they understood it to begin with.
2. Evoke Emotion
Emotion creates long-term memory. When we feel something, it acts as an anchor. Which is why people may not remember what you’ve said, but they certainly remember how you made them feel and the moment you made them feel it. Branding anyone?
3. Know Your Audience when Evoking Emotion
There are two types of people: those who are motivated away from pain (which are 90% of your public) and those who are motivated toward pleasure. Those who fear pain will do whatever it takes to stop the pain, but nothing more. Those motivated by pleasure will go above and beyond to get what they want. The latter will spend more and refer you to like-minded friends.
When communicating, since you never know who will be reading or listening to your communication, you want to use the fear of loss or an inherent fear they have (like an IRS audit, fear of rejection, embarrassment, etc.) to illustrate the problem your product or service solves; but then end with the pleasure and satisfaction they will have after using your product or service (peace of mind, removing an obstacle, saving money or solving the problem).
4. Use Analogies
Analogies are powerful tools because they use similarities to draw mental pictures one can understand. For example, I often tell my clients that smartphones have provided an instant, mobile, marketing delivery system, because everyone reaches for their phone “like a drowning person reaching for a life-preserver” when they hear the tone of a new message. That’s a strong analogy.
5. Tell a Story
Stories have the magic of grasping one’s attention and holding it, because people want to know how the story ends. Moreover, a well-told story stays in one’s memory longer.
So, instead of trying to impress with the weight of your vocabulary (or how Rocket would say in Guardians of the Galaxy… “vocabulistics”), make sure they understand what you’re trying to say. People are drawn to those they like and can relate to, so be relatable. Write like you speak; unless you speak like a walking business-jargon and vernacular dictionary – then you may want someone else doing the talking.
If you become more conscious of keeping things simple, using emotional words, telling stories and painting verbal pictures, your messaging (okay, I had to do it…) will be taken to the next level (I was gagging when I wrote it)!
By the way, if you’re a Chris Pratt fan (since I mentioned Guardians of the Galaxy), check out this article on Chris and his beard. A good read! Enjoy!
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