Have you ever had a conversation with someone and come away thinking ‘Wow, they are truly extraordinary’?
That happened to me this week. I was meeting with a technical expert – this guy is at the forefront of a very specific field. I was talking to him about how to encourage others in his profession to communicate more clearly.
I have to admit I was already inwardly groaning, thinking we’d be getting into geek-speak with me having to mentally translate everything he said before I could process it. Turns out, I had it all wrong!
I encountered a rare individual; someone totally immersed in his technical field with all its jargon – and at the same time able to communicate with such clarity I immediately knew I was communing with a kindred spirit.
He told me how frustrated he felt when others in his field deliberately hid behind big words and important-sounding language because of their fear of being accountable. He clearly understood the problems those barriers created. I was hooked!
Even better, he was looking for a way to break through the blockages and resistance of his profession, to reach a point where his colleagues could form great relationships with their clients rather than trying to avoid them.
Working with many businesses and organisations still bogged down in old forms of communication, I’m often overwhelmed by the size of the challenge in helping them communicate more clearly. My friend this week has given me new hope - and a reminder to all of us that whatever type of work you do, whatever the nature of your business, you’re a human communicating with other humans.
Get that mindset right and you’re already well on your way to being a clear and credible communicator. Remember:
Big words don’t impress; they’re likely to confuse.
The English language is full of shades of meaning. Think of any concept and you can probably come up with five words or phrases to describe it. Some language will be simple, some won’t.
It can be tempting to choose bigger, more complicated words under the illusion they’ll make you sound credible and impressive - but you’ll create the opposite effect. Do you know anyone who has time to plough through long-winded emails or reports? No, neither do I.
Keep it short and clear. I’m not suggesting you take short cuts; you still need to be precise and sometimes a longer word is the best option. However, if you have the choice between a long word or expression and a shorter one that means the same thing, dare to be brief.
Great communication is based on great relationships.
Whenever you interact with anyone – whether it’s a one-line email, a short phone call or a deep and meaningful conversation - it’s part of an ongoing relationship. It needs to be treated with the importance it deserves.
Rather than firing off a message in a mad rush, think about the person on the receiving end. How can you build your relationship with them? How much more effective will your communication be if you’ve built a level of trust? That trusting connection is the conduit that makes your interactions flow smoothly.
Take every opportunity to communicate in person. Don’t revert to email because it’s what you’ve always done.
Highly technical individuals are people too.
My meeting this week was an important wake-up about the risks of stereotyping. I turned up thinking this guy would have no people skills, but he was the one teaching me some lessons. His combination of highly technical skills and clear words made him a communication powerhouse.
As our world becomes even more digitally driven, the ability to relate human to human will be critical. Those people with technical brilliance and outstanding communication skills will have the world at their feet.
If you don’t think you’re an outstanding communicator now, you can start to address that.
These are learned skills and there are plenty of tools out there to help you. Here’s just one to give your email writing a boost. If you’d like a quick and easy tool that will make an immediate difference to the way you write emails, you’re welcome to download my IDEA Email Framework.