Have you ever met someone who had more degrees than a thermometer, and it looked like alphabet soup behind their name, but … he had trouble communicating with other humanoids? I think we’ve all met an individual like this.
That’s a lot like Jean, a guy that I met a while back. The problem isn’t that Jean isn’t intelligent. In fact, just the opposite. Jean is super smart and has lots of technical knowledge. What Jean lacks, though, is people skills. And I’ve been saying this for years:
People skills trump technical skills every time.
Having good people skills means tuning into the other person and looking at the situation from their perspective. Sure, you may know a lot about the situation or topic, but throwing all this data at the other person will have only one effect. Know what that is? They’ll just shut down.
Yep. A confused mind does nothing, makes no decision. Oh, were you trying to sell a product or service to Jane? Well, buddy, by verbally vomiting all your knowledge about your products on her, you totally overwhelmed her and turned her off. And if you were trying to influence Juan’s behavior so that he would be more engaged in his job, you blew it because Juan just checked out. This is why when someone has too much knowledge, info, or data, they call it the curse of knowledge.
I once took a week-long class and I literally felt like I was trying to drink from a fire hose. It was just so much information that I couldn’t take it all in. This happens frequently in education and training classes. This also happens in business meetings. The instructor – or the leader – is very knowledgeable and wants to share all of that knowledge with the participants. But doing so means that a good portion of that information overflows and is not absorbed by anybody.
So what good is it to be a smart cookie if nobody understands what you’re saying? It’s far smarter to simplify your message and explain it in a way that’s accessible and comprehensible.
Here are a few tips you can use if you suffer from the curse of knowledge.
Know your audience. First focus on who you’re speaking to and look at the situation from their perspective.
Start with the big picture. If you and I were going on a trip and sharing the driving, we would both want to be clear on the ultimate destination. Smaller bits of info would be roads and routes. I wouldn’t tell someone to just drive until a certain point and not tell them where we’re ultimately going.
Leave some white space. It’s important that you allow time for organic discussions and conversations. Yes, of course, you need to have an agenda to cover pertinent items. But, you also don’t want to have every single minute planned out. Much like when you go on a trip, you want to leave some space in your suitcase for souvenirs and spontaneous purchases – you want to allow for unplanned conversation and connection.
Give context – Explain how pieces of info relate to each other. Create straightforward analogies. Compare and contrast a complicated subject to something well-known. How is it similar or different?
Ditch the technical jargon. For the love of all that is holy, please speak in a language that people can understand. If you simply must use what my daddy used to call “fifty cent words” or acronyms, at least explain them first.
When you confuse, you lose. In sales, become an assistant buyer to help the customer to figure out the best solution for his/her problem. As a leader, keep it direct and simple and don’t expect busy people to spend time trying to figure out what you’re attempting to say.
In such a noisy, bizzy world, the simplest messages are the ones that will enable you to connect with others. Simplify your message to amplify your influence and you will be much more likely to connect with team members, land the deal, and make the sale.
- What are some techniques that you use to simplify your message?
- How do you ensure that your message lands with team members and that you really connect?
- We’d love to hear about your experiences. Share your insights with our community below.
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Jennifer Ledet, CSP, is a leadership consultant and professional speaker (with a hint of Cajun flavor) who equips leaders from the boardroom to the mailroom to improve employee engagement, teamwork, and communication. In her customized programs, leadership retreats, keynote presentations, and breakout sessions, she cuts through the BS and talks through the tough stuff to solve your people problems.