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Communication 101: Do you know what you’re talking about?


Cassie, one of our Helium team members sent me a quote from Albert Einstein this week, which stated

“If you can’t explain it to a six year old, you don’t understand it yourself.”  

This sentiment is one I had heard years ago on my business journey, and it’s one that has stuck with me (and if I’m honest, has caught me a couple of times). 

Have you ever been in a conversation that can be equated to a verbal meri-go-round?  I have. Sometimes it’s the same thing said over and over as if on the ninth time it will sink in. Other times it’s every analogy used about a situation, but no information on the situation itself.  I think, if we were to reflect on these types of conversations, they might be because we know precisely enough to be dangerous. We can be part of the conversation, but putting in our 2 cents is about 1.5 cents more than we should have.

I have seen it happen in company meetings, sales pitches, conversations with adults, teens and kids. This is not to say that my stance is that you should ‘dumb things down’ or belittle those you are in conversation with.  I don’t want to focus outward, but rather, inward.  

Effective communication starts with knowing well what you are want to share.  I spend the better part of my day directing our production team on various client tasks.  If I have not clearly understood the request, my communication to the team is even less clear. This results in an ineffective use of time, more questions, more rework, and at times a total breakdown – all of which take time and money.

Now imagine you are giving a speech, or pitching a service on a sales call. Imagine leading a construction project where its success hinges on your effective communication.  Daunting isn’t it…but its not just in these circumstances that we need to take great care of what we are presenting.

When communicating to others, regardless of the topic, have you thought through how to relay the information?  Are there pieces of information you should share? Are there parts that need to be left out or have no bearing for a particular person?  Often, the more information you share, the better chance you have of connecting the right information with your subject.

But wait…there’s help!

Our faces act as a window (and often say more than our words) so, do those you are communicating with look lost, confused or like they need you to repeat yourself? If so, is there a different way that you can explain things more clearly?  Repetition may be important, but if you have said things twice and the look of confusion is still apparent, change the words you’re using, or try an example or parallel to bring the point across  

If communication is foundational, it’s well worth the small investment in time to make sure you’re making clear connections with your message.

Make sure you know WELL what you are communicating first!  Then work on the delivery.