As I see it there are 3.
The first hallmark is simplicity.
Have you ever been in a presentation or a meeting when someone insists on using long & complex words and phrases rather than simple and plain language? Of course you have! It’s as if they believe that they will impress people with their command of language by using words & jargon that show just how smart they are. Doing this helps no one.
I’d like to share with you a story. The moral of this story will give you a tremendous insight into how to more effectively communicate with your clients, prospects, staff, suppliers … in fact anyone you need to speak with and whom you want to understand the words you are using.
Many years ago I attended a student residential conference whilst at university. The conference was held in a wonderful bushland setting a couple of hours drive south of Sydney.
The keynote speaker was a terrific & engaging guy with the somewhat unusual name of Winkie Pratney (that is a name you don’t forget in a hurry ) He was sharing insights on leadership and value-driven work.
Winkie’s style of instruction/teaching was great. He peppered each seminar with real life examples and anecdotes. One such story has stuck in my mind since (25+ years!). Winkie called it the “3 Stages.” Here is how it went.
There are 3 stages in effective communication – be it written or oral.
Stage 1 – This consists of small ideas in small words. We all go through this stage. From our first acts of speech we use smalls words like da-da, mummy, bye-bye and eat to convey simple greetings and requests. As children grow & develop, the volume of words increase but not so much their length and the ideas behind them are still small … “Dad can I have $10 please?” I think you get the idea.
Stage 2 – This stage is big ideas in big words. This is the use (& sometimes overuse) of jargon and technical language. Have you had a meeting with an “average” tax lawyer lately? Tax legislation is typically complex, verbose and detailed. However, sometimes the interpretation or the explanation given by the tax lawyer is equally complex, verbose and detailed – a definite case of big ideas in big words.
Stage 3 – The 3rd and final stage in effective communication is simply this: you will never become a great communicator until you translate big ideas into small words.
To unpack this simple rule a little more, consider this. If a person knows and understands their subject matter extremely well then he/she should be able to explain the material to someone new to the area. For example, I have no understanding of physics whatsoever having done no study at either school or uni – it just doesn’t interest me for some reason. However, I once saw an interview with a Nobel Prize winning physicist on television explain in small words the big idea of Einsteins General Theory of Relativity. Not bad!
Conversely, if a person doesn’t know their subject matter that well they will tend to hide behind jargon or big words. Keep this in mind when listening to a politician speak about some so-called “complex issue.”
Here is a question for you – “When you communicate with your clients do you use small words or big words?”
See you next time,