Is there one principle, above all others, that you can take on board to gain the foundation of better communication? I think there is, and this is the most boiled-down version I’ve come up with:
IS NOT WHAT’S IN YOUR HEAD
It’s about realising that you have a responsibility to meet your audience at least halfway. You can’t just throw some words down that you would understand yourself, presented in a way that you would find pleasant and digestible. Because they ain’t you.
(You could make various parallel rule versions, like, “Their life is not your life”, or even, “Their computer is not your computer”. But I think the above sums it up pretty well.)
In Yorkshire, where I grew up, we sometimes said “so-and-so can’t see beyond their own nose end” – meaning that all a person thought about was themselves and their own picture of the world. Someone like that can never be a great communicator. They can only appeal to people like themselves, and get frustrated when they come up against barriers.
Getting good at this requires qualities like empathy and adaptability – the ability to step outside your own worldview and habits – alongside skills in use of language and presenting information. Read more »