Is Your Communication Toxic to Your Audience?
You may think your audience hears one thing, but are they interpreting your words in a completely different way?
The words you choose to use in communication is vital to the message your audience receives.
I recently heard about a communication between a parent and their daughter’s speech therapist. The speech therapist thought the woman’s daughter might not be responding to their requests to say certain words or display specific actions because of ‘frustration’ at the activity. The parent interpreted ‘frustration’ to mean that her daughter was irritated by the activity. Consequently, she assumed her daughter was defiant in response to her request.
She later discovered that the therapist meant that she thought her daughter lacked the confidence to act accordingly rather than felt irritation at the request.
The subtle difference in meaning between the understanding of the word used had a significant impact on the parent’s response to their child in that situation.
Imagine you think someone is defying with you. How would you respond? With irritability? Frustration? In a dismissive way? Perhaps you would keep trying to ‘win over’ the child, but after many attempts, you may want to give up.
Imagine now that you thought the child lacked confidence. Perhaps because they had tried to communicate before, but had felt you didn’t understand them and so didn’t feel confident enough to keep trying. Would you still feel frustrated? Would you feel the need to work harder to understand your child and to be understood?
Now imagine this same scenario in your communications with your employees or potential clients. What messages are you sending to them that are getting lost in translation? Are your words clear, concise, easy to understand?
Simple changes in word choice and language structure can have huge impacts on your ability to hold the grasp and retain your audience’s attention.
If you can use a simple word, use it. I wanted to use the word ‘semantic’ in this post, but I realized the word ‘meaning’ would be much simpler and provide the same understanding. Don’t complicate your language if you don’t need too; it makes your audience work harder than they need to. If the therapist had used the word ‘confidence’ instead of ‘frustration,’ the parent would have fully understood from the outset. Say what you mean and fast.
There is always a shorter way to say something. Find it. If it’s taking you forever to explain an idea, it’s taking your audience forever to understand it. And during that time, you’re rapidly losing their interest.
We love to talk about ourselves; it’s human nature. But, your audience feels just the same way. They want you to focus on their needs, not your own. Read your content; does it focus on your audience’s needs or yours? Do you frame your language by sharing what you can do for them? Or do you talk about their needs and slot in your guidance capabilities?
Communication doesn’t need to be complicated. The key is to say what you mean, and say it fast.