Keep it Simple

A recent trip to Europe and the opportunity to savour food, wine, culture and adventures in cities with three different languages was a very real and visceral reminder to keep the conversation as simple as possible for effective communication.  Whether we were ordering food, asking for information, or sharing an idea; simple is best.

I share this advice with clients all the time, and know it’s easier said than done.  My clients are really smart, highly educated people.  They know a lot about what they do, they’re passionate about their chosen paths, and they’re very generous in sharing their knowledge. One of the hardest things to do is simplify information to a level that others can understand it.  The effort and editing is worth it, though, because—and here’s the kicker—simple words work.  The only way to penetrate all the other things people have on their mind, and all the things they already know, and all the things they care deeply about it is with simple, easy-to-understand words and concepts.

It may seem counter-intuitive, but it’s harder and takes more effort and forethought for most people to communicate with simple rather than technical words and phrases. Unfortunately, our education system rewards the process of communicating and understanding complex concepts so that gets embedded as the best way to speak or write early. But outside of the classroom complex concepts don’t resonate, they don’t educate, they don’t open or change minds or behaviour. Most of the time, they’re not even heard.  They don’t penetrate the already busy and engaged brain.

Whether you want directions to the train station, the history of the Forum or customers to buy your latest product, speak clearly and use words the people you’re speaking to would use.  Simple works.