4 Reasons to Dumb Down Your Message

How many times have you come up with an amazing idea, explained it to someone, and found glassy eyes staring back at you? Somehow the great idea was lost in translation. Why? Your delivery was probably convoluted, too sophisticated or just plain insensitive.

Here are four reasons to dumb down your message.

1. Complicated Messages Waste Valuable Time

I remember when I first started working for a company and my boss was crossing off all the onboarding action items as she conveyed them to me. My eyes glazed over within the first 10 minutes of our discussion because she’d already used a number of acronyms, shortcuts and company colloquialisms, and this created an inordinate amount of work on my part.

I had to WORK to be part of the discussion, and then I had to WORK to research all the idiosyncrasies to get caught up after the meeting – all before I could begin crossing off my action items.

Assumptions are dangerous and create unnecessary work. When we spend a lot of time on a project, or have worked for a company for many years, we expect everyone to be as intimate with it as we are. They aren’t.

Be sensitive to your readers and listeners and consider being pointed, precise and concise in your approach. People on the receiving end of a message shouldn’t have to struggle to understand it – and more than likely, they won’t even try.

2. Hiccups Are Annoying

Have you ever read a novel and had to circle a ton of words to look up in a dictionary, just to get through a single paragraph? In academia or educational settings, this is appropriate; in the fast-paced marketing and production world, this is not. It causes dissonance and disruption for the reader. Who enjoys reading the same paragraph or sentence 15 times to make sense of it? Who has time for that?

3. It’s Not About You

A very intelligent friend of mine often chooses to insert abstract words and phrases into his writing because he wants people to respect his intelligence and know they’re not dealing with the average Joe. Fine, Einstein. However, when doing so, he’s limiting his audience to a very narrow profile of people.

How many people actually enjoy a showoff? People don’t care how smart you think or know you are. They want to make that decision for themselves. Yes, they expect to trust that you know what you’re talking about, but nine times out of 10 they trust you because of how you’re talking about it. The whole point of sharing your message is to get the readers to buy what you’re selling. In order for this to happen, they have to understand what you’re selling.

4. Confusion Is The Enemy

In his book The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell tells the story of the research done to produce Sesame Street. The objective was not only to entertain and capture the attention of young children, but to educate them in the process. What researchers discovered was fascinating.

Adding more people or fluff to a scene confused the children. It complicated the lesson and children turned away from the screen to play with their toys. When one simple fact or person was on the screen, children turned back around and became engaged.

Why is this relevant? Do you know “the average person reads at anywhere from a sixth-grade level to an eighth-grade level”? Read more about that in this post by Mickie Kennedy on Ragan’s PR Daily.

Think about a time you sat in a classroom or training session or seminar and lost a connection with the presenter. At what point did you lose connection? What was happening onstage, or how was the speaker trying to explain something? Speaking of losing connection, how often does this happen daily when speaking with people or talking on a smartphone? Hello? Can you hear me now?

Disconnect typically occurs as a result of distortion or distraction. The solution? Keep it simple.

What steps do you take to keep your message simple?

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