Ideas are like mustangs. Anyone who attempts to capture an idea, harness it’s power, and hitch it to wagon of another mind knows how illusive and stubborn ideas can be. Those who take the challenge of communication lightly are rewarded with frustration.
A long-time pastor friend who has also been a long-time baseball coach is fond of a profound and simple saying that has helped hone my persepctive many, many times. It goes like this:
Success is doing the basics well and doing them consistently.
It’s an axiom that works for life, for sports, and for communication.
Let me make this plain. You might be smart. Your words might be clever. You might have an advanced degree or years of experience. But if you don’t put in the work required to do the basics of communication well, you and your ideas will be trapped inside your own head. You will be marooned on a lonely tropical island of your own fumbling creation.
Not to mention being trampled by herds of wild horses.
Natural, unrefined giftedness is rarely enough to empower someone to communicate effectively. Because, as in sports, success in communication is doing the basics well and consistently.
So, how do you saddle up those horses instead of being dragged through the jungle by them? As I’m thinking about communicators I really admire for their skill, three simple basics they all employ come to mind:
- Read widely. Books, magazines, and newspapers are a common well of shared information. This information forms hooks in the mind of your audience that can connect your new idea with ideas already embedded in the mind of the listener or viewer. Religious communicators are especially guilty of ignoring the “available means of persuasion” Aristotle loved to talk about. Most people are not intelligent enough or interested enough in what you have to say to process and internalize your ideas — regardless of the cleverness or usefulness of that idea. Connect what they know to what you want them to know.
- Think deeply. Good communication takes time. Refine your ideas and your approach to delivering them for maximum impact. Reflect on your message from the listener’s or viewer’s point of view. Why should they care about what I have to say? How can I make my idea meaningful and memorable to my audience? Take the extra mental effort to provide a perspective that is unique to you and that takes audience needs and wants into account. This gives your message value. Anything less is a boring re-run.
- Speak simply. A good communicator knows that imparting ideas is not a beauty contest or a forum for flexing intellectual muscle. Loquacious and verdant profundities impede comprehension. Get it? Those who know their subject best can explain it most simply. If you enjoy hearing your voice fill a room, then break out the thesaurus and the semicolons. If successful germination of ideas in the minds of others is the aim? Plant small, powerful seeds of compact thought.
By doing these communication basics well and consistently, a talented writer or speaker becomes compelling, an average one becomes effective, and even a guy like me can expect to successfully saddle a wild horse or two.