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Curiosity has joined the party

Confusion’s best mate is Complexity.
Clarity’s best mate is Curiosity.

Luckily, Complexity and Curiosity are friends, too.

When you need to explain a complex idea with clarity, I’d suggest you invite Curiosity to the party, too, as she can help connect Complexity and Clarity.

Do not make the mistake of introducing All-at-once to Complexity, as the two will immediately start nerding so deeply about their expertise that it will lead others to quickly feel overwhelmed. Everyone else will get bored, roll their eyes, and tune out – except for Confusion, of course, who gets a kick out of it.

Curiosity, on the other hand, is a brilliant conversation starter that gets everyone involved. She has such a great intuition for what excites the others that it feels effortless for the group to dive from layer to layer of each and every detail. The deeper the conversation goes, the more Clarity will open up and engage in the discussion.

The best part: Curiosity just never gets tired of parties.

Why not invite her to your party, too? Curiosity would love to introduce Clarity to Complexity for you.

Again

And then they say it again. Only s l o w e r. Or LOUDER.
As if I was kind of dumb …

And yet, that’s what some people do when others don’t get what they mean. The worst part: They do it using the exact same words.

Which hardly ever works, of course.

Because understanding the words wasn’t the issue. Getting what the words mean was. Repeating them won’t change that.

A better way to react when people don’t get what we mean is with a question. Once you know what they did understand and how they understood it, you’re much better positioned to look for other – clearer – ways to explain your idea. Ways that have a much better chance of getting through than the one for which you already know that it doesn’t work.

The simple words habit

The more you know about something, the harder it gets to speak about that thing in simple terms, right?

Well, unless you’ve committed to the simple words habit.

The default way when you dig deeper into something is that you adopt the jargon and use domain language to efficiently communicate with other experts in that field (also, it makes you feel a bit proud to finally be able to say “I’m going to superimpose A major on that scale”, doesn’t it?). The terms you use get ever denser meaning. For you and your colleagues, everything feels super clear. For outsiders it becomes ever harder to understand what you mean.

But there’s a different way. As you dig deeper, rather than change your language, you can change your thinking. Rather than restrict yourself to the new language, you can force yourself to express new thoughts in your existing language.

The irony is that this usually leads to an even more profound understanding of your field. Because, let’s be honest: that clarity that we felt when we used the jargon … that’s often just on the surface, isn’t it?

So, the simple words habit actually does two things. It brings us way closer to our audience and it deepens our own understanding so that we can come up with more meaningful results.

What are you currently working on? Can you describe it using simple words?

(PS: My free course “Crack the Clarity Code” helps you with this.)

Rule no. 1

Rule no. 1 in communication is brutal:
If they didn’t get, they didn’t get it. End of story.

There really is no point in arguing that you meant it slightly differently and if only they had listened more carefully, they would have easily seen that.

They didn’t.

It’s not their fault.

Clarity is our responsibility. Not their’s.

Which means that clarity is an invaluable ingredient for almost all aspects of business and life. It’s essential if you want to make an impact.

The best use of your time

Clarity takes time. Time to think things through. Time to change perspectives. Time to ask for feedback.

Time that we often lack in our daily business.

Given all the other things that are on our table, clamoring for our attention, it often feels that we just don’t have time to refine our story or to look for simpler ways of explaining our product.

I don’t think that’s true. In fact, I feel that the opposite is true: Investing in simpler language is one of the best uses of our time while settling with hard to understand or plain confusing messages is about the worst use of anyone’s time.

When you aim to speak with clarity, then yes, it will consume some of your time. But on the other hand, it will spare your audience an enormous amount of time – time that they would otherwise need to spend in order to figure out what you mean.

Arguably that’s going to be worth way more than your time invest.

The utility of a blank stare

One of the things that we lack as speakers on a large stage is the blank stare of our audience. Even more so when the large stage is virtual so that you’re looking into a camera.

The blank stare in a 1:1 conversation (or in a meeting) informs us about our blind spots. What are the things that are clear to us but make no sense for our audience?

You can’t reliably find that out alone. You need other people’s help. Alone, in your office, you lack these blank stares, the kind of stares that make you look for simpler ways of explaining your idea.

Practicing in front of a small live audience helps. As do private conversations. Use these as a testing environment for the clarity of your communication. Too many speakers avoid these situation because a blank stare embarasses them.

I think it’s the best thing that can happen to you. It allows you to fix your blind spots.

Look for and embrace the blank stares!

Look how beautiful the moon is

“Daddy, look how beautiful the moon is today.” My daughter expected me to chime in with her cheering.

Only that I couldn’t … because from where I was standing, I couldn’t even see the moon. It was obscured by a building. Luckily, I took a couple of steps to the side. It really was an astonishing view of the moon, an object that we see so often, yet not quite the way my daughter and I saw it on that evening.

Sometimes, to appreciate the beauty of something we need to look from the right perspective. We need to move to a different place.

If you’re wondering why your audience isn’t chiming in with your cheering, could it be that they just can’t see it when looking from their perspective? If so, then no amount of cheering from your side will make them see it. It’s obscured.

You need to show them a way to get to your place.

Clarity ≠ Minimalism

Clarity makes complex things feel simple.

That’s not the same as removing things to make them simpler. Clarity is about making them more accessible.

Often, it actually means adding things … 

… to your story, using examples, metaphors or anecdotes that translate a concept into our audience’s domain so that it’s easier for our audience to get what we mean.

… to your slide deck, bringing it from 1 difficult to decipher slide to 20 easy to understand slides.

… to your process, visualizing what each step is for.

… to your experience, amassing years of working with something.

… and many more.

Clarity feels minimal but it’s often quite the opposite.

8 million

Each year, more than 8 million children die due to poverty (source).

That’s a huge number. But how large is it, really? The human mind has no easy way to “see” that number. For our brain, it doesn’t make much difference whether it’s 8 million or 80 thousand. Both is basically “a lot”.

Things change when we translate the numbers into dimensions we can relate to. 8 million per year means that every 4 seconds a child dies due to poverty.

Basically, during the time it takes you to read this sentence, a child dies due to poverty.

4 seconds is an easy to grasp value. 4 seconds is easy to experience. It has a clear meaning in our everyday life and therefore, it makes the abstract specific. It’s still the same information, but it’s much more tangible – even more so when you support it with a finger snap.

It’s hard to see 8 million children, but it’s easy to imagine one – which is precisely what most of us do when we hear that finger snap. With each finger snap we see a child.

Translating difficult numbers into values that make sense in our everyday life also makes it a lot easier for our audiences to understand what the numbers mean. It makes it a lot easier to relate to the info we’re trying to convey.

Spread the Word

Dr. Michael Gerharz

Dr. Michael Gerharz

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