How to Communicate Clearly

clarity communication humor turkey Jun 27, 2024

The other day, we were having some people over for lunch and figured sandwiches were the best option to feed everyone. And so we headed to the store to buy some sliced turkey breast. After looking at several options, I found one package in particular that caught my eye: It boasted “Craft Meats”, “Herb Roasted”, and “Coated with Flavorings & Paprika”.

Despite having no clue what “Flavorings” means, (Really though, does anyone?) it looked ‘fancy’ enough for our guests and so we bought it and headed home. However once we started making the sandwiches, I encountered an obstacle that I never could have imagined:

I couldn’t open the packaging.

Captain Intelligence over here literally *struggled* to open the plastic covering the turkey. Have you ever been in a situation when something so simple became overly complicated?

So much for my Master’s degree…

Here’s what happened: Looking at the package, there was a clear bit of plastic at the top that seemed (to my novice eyes) like the obvious place to begin. I started by finding the impossibly thin edge with my fingers, and then tried to pull it apart.

Nothing.

I then got a regular knife and pried it even more- while trying to avoid tearing the package entirely.

Still, nothing.

Starting to feel confused and frustrated, I decided to really muscle it open… and used all my might and fury to “Arnold Schwarzenegger” the dang thing.

And despite bending the plastic this way and that, the turkey remained safe and sound. I swear I could hear the “Flavorings” mocking me from inside.

Scratching my head, I was flummoxed. I never thought I would be stumped by simple plastic wrapping. THEN I noticed in very fine print on a small flap on the side, Easy Open. Resealable. Lift Here”. Trying to salvage my ego, I quickly followed the newly discovered instructions, and FINALLY opened the package.

Triumphant, I glared hungrily at the turkey, and even ate a slice right then and there out of spite.

And by the way, did I mention I have a Masters degree from The London School of Economics?

As simple of an example as this is, (and even though I still need to talk to my therapist about my turkey issues) it made me wonder: why was this so difficult? And what can we learn about influence?

To me, the most important lesson begins with one question: When we communicate to others, do we assume that people will automatically get it? Or do we mistakenly send mixed signals?

In the case of the turkey package, the manufacturers did a great job selling the idea, (Think: “Craft Meats”, “Herb Roasted”, and “Coated with Flavorings & Paprika”) but created a package …with uneccessary components… that unintentionally left me confused and frustrated.

They assumed it was obvious and I would just “get it”… but I didn’t.

Researchers call this the “expert's curse” where we become so proficient in our area of expertise, that we forget what it was like to be a novice… and unintentionally alienate people who are not as knowledgeable as we are.

You’ve probably experienced this any time you’ve gone to a car mechanic.

I had the “Check Engine” lights come on in my car once, and headed to a nearby shop to have them diagnose the issue. An incredibly capable and experienced mechanic got elbow deep in the engine and a few minutes later confidently stated, “the quadratic flux capacitor overcomputized the whizbangle monitor”.

At least… that’s what it sounded like to me.

An alien descending out of his flying saucer would have made more sense. And in efforts to not be a complete fool, I nodded and said I understood, when in reality I felt like a Labrador Retriever listening to a human explain taxes.

I’m just here for the Scooby snack, dude.

He assumed I understood the problem in the same way and in the same language as he did… but in reality I had no idea.

Here’s my nudge:

· How can you remove your “car mechanic” language when you talk to people who are novices?

· How can you make it unmistakably clear (and simple) for others to understand what they need to know to get the turkey?

· Just for a second, imagine if you were a novice encountering your current language, marketing, or instructions. Would the novice version of you understand yourself… today?

There is a dignity in being a novice. And we’ve all been there. When you speak to people in a way that acknowledges how much you value them, and makes them feel like you understand their struggle… in their language… they will be more likely to choose you.

To me, that’s the real secret “Flavoring” of influence.

Christian

CHRISTIAN HANSEN has gone behind the scenes in some of the biggest organizations in the world to find out the reasons why some people get chosen and why others don’t. As the #1 bestselling and LinkedIn Top Ten ranked author of “The Influence Mindset: The Art & Science of Getting People to Choose You” Christian helps teams and organizations who want increase their earning potential by standing out from the crowd and influencing people to choose them. With degrees from Brigham Young University and The London School of Economics, he’s helped thousands of individuals position and sell themselves. A fan of international communication, history, and choral music, he currently lives in Utah with his wife. Reach him at: TheChristianHansen.com

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