“That makes sense to you, but would it make sense to my 10 year old daughter?”
That’s what I said to a team I worked with recently as we wrestled through the process of stating the reason they existed. When I asked it that way, it changed everything for them. What about you? Have you made things too complicated in the way you communicate?
Today I drive a few hours north to hang out with my daughter’s girl scout troupe. I stayed up late last night preparing a teaching I’ve taught many times before to executive teams called How to have Difficult Conversations. I thought I had it down. But knowing I’ll be teaching and interacting with 15 little girls has caused me to step back and realize how complicated it really is.
As I’ve been re-writing the teaching for kids it’s made me realize that I’ve often made one wrong broad assumption when communicating. I’ve wrongly assumed that I make perfect sense to everyone. What about you? Have you been communicating thinking that you will make perfect sense to everyone?
Communicating is like riding a bike on the street. The worst thing you can do is assume cars actually see you. The best thing you can do is ride with the assumption that no one knows you are there. This will make you ride more cautiously and be far more aware of your surroundings than normal.
The same is true of communicating. When you are doing it, assuming you make perfect sense is a sure way to do something stupid. Rather, think through what you want to say first and rehearse it in simple form, just as if you would be telling it to a 10 year old. Once you’ve done that, then at your meeting you’ll actually know what you want to communicate.
The best part about doing this is that people will understand your thoughts clearly and you will have created a safe space for people to interact with you vs. just to listening to you process.
Principle for the day: prepare as if you are communicating to a bunch of 10 year olds!