What’s the purpose of communication? Is it:
- To use fashionable words and sound cool
- To use big words and sound smart
- To exchange ideas and information
If you answered A or B, then I must inform you that a lot of people find you really annoying!
The purpose of communication is to exchange ideas and information. And in order to achieve that exchange, one requirement is that the people you are communicating with understand what you mean.
I speak fluent Chinese. One time, someone asked me just how good my Chinese is. I said it was good enough to argue with my wife, but not good enough to give a lecture on rocket science.
I say this because my Chinese is good but not perfect. There are some words I still don’t know, and if you ask me to start talking about something outside of my areas of expertise then it becomes a bit challenging. But to be honest, my native language English is exactly the same. Over time I have forgotten a lot of words and I find myself checking the dictionary dozens of times a day!
And I say all of that because communication is really important for my job as a trainer. I need to explain ideas in a way that people understand. And I can do that very well in both languages, despite the fact that the two languages I speak I don’t actually speak very well!
Because actually, not being able to speak a language to an extremely high level is GOOD for communication. The simpler the language we use, the more people will understand!
There is actually a way of measuring how easy your language is to understand (in English at least). It’s called the Flesch scale.
The Flesch scale looks at texts and measures them based on things like average sentence length, the use of certain grammatical structures, and even how many syllables each word has. It then gives you a score from 0-100. The higher your score the more people can understand your writing.
In fact, it bases the score on what education level is required to read it. At the highest level, even a 5-year-old could understand it. At the lowest level, your audience probably require a PhD to understand it!
And think, what do you prefer? Your audience to understand you? Or your audience to be amazed by how many cool and sophisticated words you used yet still not be able to understand you?
Understanding is the first step to influence. If you want to have any impact on people, they need to understand you.
Good Communication Is…
Can you use one sentence to describe the concept of ‘Compound Interest’? Can you use 3 words to get people to pay attention to your company’s latest policy announcement? Can you use 2 minutes in a job interview to persuade someone to give you a job?
If you can, then you are a fantastic communicator. The ability to help people understand, pay attention and remember through as few words as possible is the mark of a fantastic communicator.
And if you want to develop your ability as a fantastic communicator, then do the following:
1. Use fewer words
2. Use what your audience understands already
3. Use lots of examples and analogies